Friday, February 29, 2008

Forest For the Trees Update!

Forest For the Trees has now seen updates! Eight of them, to be exact. I realize that it's been more of a month now but I hereby solemnly swear that I won't ever wait that long again, unless I have a really good reason. Please read the archives and give me your input!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

100 Best April Fools' Pranks of All Time

This month, I suggest that you go and take a fool month to prepare for April Fool's Day. Buy all of the cellophane, radio jammers and wiretappers that you'll need for that most special of holidays, and plan a heist that will be remembered and ruin friendships for years to come.

Before you leave for Walgreen's, I'd suggest that you warm up with this awesome list of the Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time, courtesy of the Museum of Hoaxes. Those of you who don't remember the Left-Handed Whopper, Sidd Finch or the amazing discovery of Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers could use a refresher course. I know I did.

Remember, March might feel like the longest month, but if you don't prepare now you'll miss a golden opportunity to really piss a lot of people off.

Update On Sleazy Camera Offer

I called the Larry H. Miller car lot regarding their scammy offer, where, as expected, a very nice receptionist got flustered and asked me if I would like to speak to the manager to voice my complaint. She said that the lying camera deal was "just a marketing thing", as if that explains anything.

Having such a nice person as your first contact to a wretched hive of scum and villainy like Larry H. Miller Auto is sort of like having Pikachu guard the gates of Hell - it softens you up before the real torment begins. Predictably, my righteous indignation had melted away by this point and I told her to have a nice day and hung up.

So, let's leave aside the question of whether blatant lying in advertising is illegal, and get to the real meat of the issue: when are we going to dissect that crap camera? Very soon, my friends, and we'll be sure to post the step-by-step dissection online (I can't stand a vivisection, so we'll take the batteries out first).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Car Dealership's Bogus Prize

Imagine our surprise when we picked up the mail last week and found this offer:

The offer from the Larry H. Miller Used Car Supermarket promised us, through highly-evolved scratch and win technology, that we were entitled to a free DELUXE DIGITAL CAMERA! According to the prize sheet, the odds of winning this prize are 29,998 to 1. Naturally, our first thought was that it must be a trap. But the paper can't lie. Since the odds of winning the camera are the same as the odds for the vacation and the $10,000 giveaway, we reasoned that this must be one stinking good camera.

This auto dealership has tried to screw my parents over in the past, but I was willing to give them the benefit of a doubt. Wishful thinking, it turns out.

My roommate went and got the camera earlier:

Words cannot describe how crappy this camera is. It's plainly a disposal digital camera, designed for single uses and for children. The camera records in a stunning 100K resolution, or one-tenth of a megapixel. Nearly all cell phone cameras have higher resolution. Here's a shining example of its quality, from a picture taken earlier under normal indoor lighting:

This is partially explained by the fact that the camera is plainly used: the entire front is rusted, the lense nonexistent and the focuser clearly broken. Still, considering the fact that Merriam-Webster defines "deluxe" as "notably luxurious, elegant, or expensive", it seems that Larry H. Miller has some explaining to do.

Walking to our apartment, we found our neighbor's offer in the trash. Surprise! They won a digital camera too! The odds of this are less than 1 in 899 million. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that our other two neighbors won cameras, too. The odds of this are less than 1 in 809,784 trillion. The "prize" is clearly a ploy to get you into the dealership where the manager will try to get you into a new car. Congratulations, Larry H. Miller Used Car Supermarket, for false advertising and outright thievery.

"But it's a free camera!" Some will say. Why bother complaining over a "free" prize?

Easy. If I get somebody thirty miles away to come to my house for a $100 giveaway, telling him that he's the only winner, and he shows up along with 500 others for a dirty quarter, he'd be mad, and rightly so.

I will be calling them tomorrow during normal business hours. I plan to ask about the word "deluxe" and just how on earth they calculated the odds of winning. Watch out, Larry.

Forest For the Trees Back Soon!

My roommate's new scanner is working! Forest For the Trees will see some updates very soon, hopefully tomorrow but definitely by Friday. I have a good dozen new drawings to go up. The ones that aren't creased from weeks of sitting on my dresser will go up immediately, the rest will be redrawn and up within the week. Tally ho!

Special game for the young'uns: Can you find the differences between this post and my similar post at the link? Make it a game! Then go back to kicking the couch and yelling for ice cream.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Massive Wonderful Word List

I stumbled upon this 7.6 megabyte word list a few days ago and have been enthralled ever since. Once you get a few pages in (to the five-letter words), nearly every entry is a wonderful, undefinable pseudoword. Needless to say, it gets even better toward the end, descending into pure ecstatic gibberish - a barrage of misspelled German, technical terms and stream of consciousness rambling. I like to think that some server read too many Lewis Carroll poems an cranked this thin out in 2.3 seconds.


I can't for the life of me decipher this, but it makes the linguistic pleasure cells in my brain freak out.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Boingboing: "Teen-repellent ultrasonic device violates kids' rights"

I knew that taste buds dull as one ages, but I did not know that one's hearing does the same. Boingboing reports that the Mosquito device, a small machine that emits an obnoxious sound that only youngsters can hear, is causing widespread controversy, at least among those who aren't filthy rotten age-ist middle-aged beefheads.

The manufacturer (whose American import site is registered to the charming domain
) has a terrifically-insensitive blurb promoting the product on their site:

Are gatherings of teenagers and young adults affecting your business and your profits?

The Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent is the solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls and around shops. The presence of these teenagers discourages genuine shoppers and customers’ [sic - I may be under 30 but I know how to use an apostrophe] from coming to your shop, affecting your turnover and profits.

The Mosquito is PERFECTLY SAFE and based on the same technology SAFELY used by millions of teenagers as a cell-phone ringtone.

Acclaimed by the Police forces of many areas of the United Kingdom, the Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent has been described as “the most effective tool in our fight against anti social behavior”. Shop keepers around the world have purchased the device to move along unwanted gatherings of teenagers and anti social youths. Railway companies have placed the device to discourage youths from spraying graffiti on their trains and the walls of stations.

Bad ol' grownups, discriminating on their past selves. Check this site to see if you're old and decrepit enough not to hear the sounds.

The flip side: wouldn't it be great if we could make one of these for old people, specifically those who have purchased the Mosquito Civil Rights Violation Device? The sight of a dozen grumpy shopowners bleeding profusely from the ears would be better for the youth movement than the simple vandalism that I usually authorize. Speaking of which, I think it's time to go give a couple of Mosquitos in my neighborhood a taste of soda, right down the ol' circuitboard. . .

UPDATE: In a typical fit of shortsighted righteous indignation, I sent the American importer this e-mail message. Wade through the quote marks if you dare:


Just a quick beef: while I am well out of the age range quite literally "targeted" by the "Mosquito" product that you import, I find the device about as charming as "Colored" and "White" signs on 1950s storefronts. While your intentions may be honorable (and I'm sure that you're very nice ageists), I consider the "Mosquito" a mild form of targeted assault.

RIAA President Cary Sherman Talks Piracy, Crippling RIAA-backed Spyware

Here's an absolutely chilling video wherein you can see the current president of the Recording Industry Association of America president do the following:

1) Endorse filtering systems designed to disallow certain downloads, presumably enforced through continued threats to Internet Service Providers, equivalent to holding phone companies responsible for conversations which occurred on their lines. Sherman claims that these filtering systems would be infallible, which is quite optimistic - current DRM software has proven remarkably little ability video to recognize the difference between pirated and free software. You'll have given the RIAA the power to remove compatibility with things that you have purchased. Would you buy a sweater with a self-destruct?

2) Support spyware on your computer, designed to police and restrict your media. He suggests that these filters be placed in software or in the modem itself. Will you rely on the free cooperation of technology companies, or will waterboarding be involved?

3) Dismisses fair use in support of the RIAA stronghold over the American media.

4) Further supports college internet filtering and consumer threatening from ISPs.

He's clear, intelligent and sounds reasonable at the surface, which makes the fearful policies that he's suggesting all the more dangerous.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Game Allows You To Draw Your Own Tank

Game blog Kotaku has a wonderful video up for the upcoming camera game Tank War (which uses the PS Eye camera). The game allows you to draw your own tanks (complete with treads and turrets) on a piece of paper, scan them into the game, and pound away in a simple combat level (there's probably more to the game than that, but only tank combat is featured in the demo). This promises to be hours of fun (at least until the gimmick wears off). See the fish tank above.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thank You, Force of Fate

A wonderful story from Louisiana:

Video Gamer's 'I Have Killed Them All' Call Leads to Arrest
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Associated Press

DELHI, La. — A call mistakenly made by a victorious video gamer led to his arrest on an outstanding warrant.

Authorities arrested Thomas Ballard, 29, of Delhi, early Monday after a woman reported receiving a late-night call from someone saying, "I have killed them all."

Ballard's number showed up on the woman's caller ID; he'd called by mistake, meaning instead to get a buddy to talk-up his success in an Xbox game, said Sgt. Julie Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana State Police.

Authorities following up at the address, to investigate whether there had been any foul play, found no evidence of wrongdoing, she said. But they did find, in the process of identifying Ballard, that he had a 5-year-old warrant out of Baton Rouge, charging him with failure to appear on a possession of cocaine charge.

Ballard was booked into the Richland Parish Detention Center for extradition to Baton Rouge.

"It was weird the way this all came down," Lewis said Tuesday. "This isn't something you could just make up."

I'm glad that his first utterance was something so cryptic and scary, and that he didn't actually bother to check that it was, in fact, his friend on the line, or we wouldn't have had this great story.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Three Tracks From My Upcoming CD Now Online!

How's that for a sense of achievement? I've now completed three of the tracks for my upcoming album, Black Plaid, which will hit sometime in late summer or fall, and available online for free upon release. Standing at 10:51 worth of releasable music, I'm now hovering somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of a full LP. Stay tuned, and I'll be posting tracks as I finish them. To those of you who didn't know that I'd become pretentious enough to actually consider a record, surprise!

The first two are repeats, but I've updated them slightly. You can download or stream them at the links below. NOTE: Tindeck often has a problem with streaming. Left-click on "Download" to open the track from within your browser and download it from there if you like. Many of the samples used in these songs have been mutilated beyond recognition, but a complete list is posted under each song.

Consider these the v1.1 releases (and they'll certainly see future tinkering before release):

Malfeasance Toned of Argon

This ever pretentiously-titled track is actually the result of my first time ever working with loops and loop-based computer software. It's probably the most accessible track that I've released so far, and if it isn't the best classical/rap/rock/electronic/punk track you'll hear today I'll slam my hand in a drawer.

Samples heard (in order of appearance):

Main Beat : "Like a Pen" by The Knife
Bass Line : "Albatross" by Public Image Limited
Strings : Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, Adagio by J.S. Bach
Very Short Sound Effect : "Atlas" by Battles
Bass Line (2) : "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes
Lead-Up Sound Effects and Vocals: "A Tale of Apes I" by Subtle
Brief Drums : "Voodoo Lady" by Ween
Sound Effect : "We Will Rock You" by the Max Raabe Orchestra


More of a set of three short mashups than a traditional "song" but fun (and time-consuming) to create nonetheless. I tried to show my love of world music in this track.

Samples heard:

Part 1

Drone 1 : "Soldier Side" by System of a Down
Guitar Sound Effects : "Mera Pyar Shalimar" by Secret Chiefs 3
Drone 2 : "Super Are" by Boredoms
Guitar : "The Rose Garden of Mystery" by Secret Chiefs 3
Sound Effects : "Broken Glass Hearse" by Secret Chiefs 3
African Guitar : "Erdi" by Ali Farka Toure

Part 2

Mashup between "Facing the Plastic" by Serart and "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" by Serj Tankian

Choir from (strangely enough) "Hardware Store" by Weird Al Yankovic

Part 3

Sound Effects and Choir Aah : A heavily pitch-tweaked "Super Are" by Boredoms
Mashup between "Mera Pyar Shalimar" by Secret Chiefs 3 and "Intro" by Sigur Ros


This is the one I just finished. I'm proud of it because I recorded most of the melody myself. I scrapped the whole thing two or three times, starting anew, and this is the final result.

Samples Heard:

Part 1

Beat : "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" by Radiohead
All Guitar Including Reversed Guitar : Me
All Unattributed Sound Effects and Tapping : Me (Guitar)
Flute and Piano : "Easier" by Grizzly Bear
Sound Effect during Interlude : "Secret Place" by Bjork

Part 2

Guitar Chords and Descending Melody : Me
Drums : Modified from "Black Mirror" by Arcade Fire
Drone : "Going To Your Funeral" by Eels (pitch-tweaked)
Distorted Voices and Static : "Deep Sea Diver" by Grizzly Bear

Thanks to everybody!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Summing Up Pitchfork Media

If I had to take just one image to sum up pretentious, crazy-awesome indie music site Pitchfork Media, this would be it:

The image and caption sum up the site perfectly. Pitchfork is YOUR #1 site for the latest on the state of Sparklehorse.

Suing Best Buy

Washington, D.C. resident Raelyn Campbell is suing Best Buy for $54 million connected to the loss of her laptop. The computer had been in for repairs for quite some time and she got fed up.

It's interesting to note that, while this may sound like another case of judicial vigilantism gone wrong, her grounding philosophy is seductively compelling. Her blog, the alliteratively-titled "BestBuyBadBuyBoycott.Blogspot" details her side:

I have filed a lawsuit against Best Buy and launched this blog in an effort to bring attention to the reprehensible state of consumer property and privacy protection practices at America's largest consumer electronics retailer, with the hope that it might motivate Best Buy to effect changes and spare future consumers the experience I have been subjected to -- or worse. The short story is that Best Buy and its representatives: 1) allowed my computer to be stolen from the Best Buy store in Tenleytown Washington, DC, 2) fabricated records and tried to cover up the theft, 3) lied to me for weeks about the repair status of the stolen computer, 4) responded to repeated requests for a theft investigation and compensation with indifference and insults, and 5) demonstrated a company-wide disregard for legal obligations to immediately disclose the theft and notify me of potential exposure to identity theft over the course of the ordeal. Relevant documents and details follow the below timeline. [All emphasis, italics, underlines etc. in original document.]

Best Buy has "compensated" her for the cost of the laptop, including a $500 gift certificate, which she donated to charity (they made these decisions without her knowledge and without indication after repeated requests for an investigation). Had they responded immediately and honestly with this information and paid the rebate upon the theft of the laptop, I think most rational people would take a "these things happen" approach, recommend that the woman take her money and be satisfied. That's not how things went down, though. After months of stalling, outright fabrications and neglect, she finally filed a lawsuit against the company.

Campbell freely acknowledges that $54 million is a "ridiculous" sum of money, but she has a point to make. I'm interested. I think that the actual amount awarded, assuming that she wins, should be less (a million at most for actual damages), but if the company is forced to acknowledge the systematic inconsistencies in their system, she'll have "won" anyway. Besides, this thing is going to get a lot more press with a $54 million lawsuit than a small claims lawsuit. What do you think?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sit-Down Comedy:

I don't have a laptop. What I do have is one of those Game Boys that opens up like a laptop.

This is much better. It meets my needs, as long as I don't have to check e-mail, type any documents or "compile" anything. What it does do is place an effective barrier between myself and the rest of the cruel world, provided that I'm willing to relax my usual posture standards.

The best electronics facilitate your withdrawal from the world, and anything can be popular as long as it follows this simple formula:

1) Headphones.
2) A tiny screen that forces you to stick your face right in it, magnifying glass-style.

"The new Nokia X0943. Stare straight forward and avoid all of that tedious chumming about that would occur WITHOUT a Nokia X0943."


You know that expression "I'll see you in Hell"? When you really think about it, doesn't that sound like just about the most callous, shortsighted thing you could ever say to a person?

"Hey - you're going to Hell! Just an observation. But so am I! We might not like each other right now, but I'm sure after a few millennia of highly-structured torment we'll develop QUITE A RAPPORT!"

Saturday, February 09, 2008


It's been another sparse week of updates, my friends, but I'd like to get everything out of the way that's been on my mind since Monday. This won't be very focused but neither am I:

With the Grammies on the way (tomorrow, it seems, though it's irrelevant since my TV antenna is busted), Ask Vulture have put together a nice flowchart to help you determine whether the show if worth your time. It's difficult to make it through the choices with the chart's blessing but anyone nonetheless interested in supporting bland, mainstream music should enjoy it. Which, of course, goes without saying.

My roommates and I just watched last year's Eragon with the full intent of mocking it. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite bad enough for full-on mocking. Bland, colorless and uninspired, yes, but not really terrible: the film was so generic that it didn't even have the energy to sink into abject self-parody. Shame on you, Eragon, for being afraid to really sink into the depths of mediocrity. Narnia was a moderately-better film but leagues more mock-able. You can't even get up the energy to hate Eragon.

In the past, I've resisted the urge to hit YouTube's top videos, but I finally gave in and have found the results surprisingly enjoyable. I guess if everybody else likes it, then it must be good.

I had another letter published in my college paper, BYU's Daily Universe. It's the second one in the link. Congrats to the Daily Universe staff for spelling my name right for once and only adding one grammatical mistake ("On-campus"!? With a hyphen? Give me a break!). They've published me twice before. The first time they mangled my syntax, making me sound like an addlepated twat, and spelled my name wrong to boot. The following incident was a limerick competition, wherein they irrationally edited my perfectly-acceptable opening word " 'Twas " to a weaker "Was", and misattributed another limerick written by another student to me. No, they never published a correction. I'm hoping that the latest "correction" was just a typo and that they've wised up somewhat and stopped trying to "improve" opinion pieces by adding mistakes.

The always-hilarious (and photogenic) HappySlip has been touring the Philippines for more than a week now, courtesy of the Philippines Dept of Tourism. She's been concentrating on some of the more provincial areas of the country, meaning that she won't have the opportunity to be exposed over a prolonged period to some of the lovely smog that kept my shirts a nice shade of off-white from 2005 to 2007.

I've been working on a new song (with with less samples and more original content, at least for the second half), which should be up here within the week. I'm also going to be working on some wacky Musique Concrète for my art class. The first will definitely go on my upcoming album, which none of you give a wet slap about yet, mainly because you don't yet know how mind-bendingly awesome it's going to be. I'm only three tracks in and I've already started the cover art. How's that for precociousness?

Have a great weekend and I'll be more bloggy next week. Maybe even tomorrow!

Monday, February 04, 2008

My Favorite Mall Was Bombed

I haven't really kept up on the news of the Philippines since I left in June of last year, but somehow I stumbled into the information earlier that my favorite mall, Glorietta (or the Ayala Center) in Makati City was bombed in October (though it's possible that the "bombing" was an accident, it seems unlikely given the circumstances). 11 people were killed and dozens more injured.

It's surreal to hear that this happened. I've probably been to that mall a good 25 times and I'm familiar with the noodle shop that was bombed (though I never ate there, preferring Japanese noodle joint Tokyo Tokyo, whose restaurants are far less modern in the Philippines than the California shots in the link might imply).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Future From 1979

By way of The Pointless Museum comes an excellent treat - full color scans of every page of The Usborne Book of the Future, written by Ken Gatland and David Jefferis and first published in 1979. As a dated representation of a possible future it's remarkably compelling - the visual design and illustrative quality of the book is topnotch. I used to have books like these. (Thanks once again to boingboing for the heads-up.)

The Usborne Book of the Future

Friday, February 01, 2008

Autoplay = False

In deference to those of you who mentioned the obtrusive music, I've turned off the autoplay function for the MP3 widget. You'll have to select a song yourself to turn on the music. The battery bar in the upper-right corner remains as full as ever, however.

Bring On the Creepy

Image from the evil geniuses at

This post is dedicated to compelling, creepy objects of fascination. No, I'm not talking about Elton John (sorry), but things that unnerve you, make you cringe, hypnotize you, and maybe even make you laugh. More importantly, they keep you coming back for more.

In this vein, enjoy the following movies and clips:

Robots Are Our Friends
A darkly humorous cautionary song on the rise of the machines. I must have watched this 500 times in a row after the first time I saw it.

Had I seen this clip (a deleted scene from this 80s claymation flick) as a child, I can assure you that my mind would have been permanently scarred. Something about it just. . . ugh.

The animation Clown Show by Zekeyspacelizard (taken from an ancient vinyl recording for children and animated completely out of context) capitalizes shamelessly on the common fear of clowns. Speaking of things that terrorized us as children, does anybody remember Killer Klowns From Outer Space? It's a comedy in retrospect.

Not really creepy but very, very funny and atmospheric: This Mary Poppins horror mashup trailer.

More by Mark Osbourne maintains a somber mood, but packs quite an emotional punch. This one sucks me in every time. I have a high-resolution version that I downloaded years ago but can't find it anymore online.

Now for the mother lode of all fear: When I was a child this episode of children's TV series Ghostwriter traumatized me. Unable to look away but unable to watch, I was in a personal hell every time it came on. Not surprisingly, "Attack of the Slime Monster" still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

The Arcade Fire Fun

I've had Neon Bible for some time now, but I haven't spun it in awhile. Thankfully, these new offerings from The Arcade Fire re-remind me of the band's genius. Their website offers up a couple of great little pseudo-games - with some great music of course.

The first is a visually compelling little webtoy, pictured above. Something to play with while you listen to the title track.

More compelling is the new video for killer opener Black Mirror, split into six separate tracks. Using your keyboard, turn off the drums, vocals, reverb or anything else.

Meanwhile, I'll continue wondering where they could possibly go from here, now that they've already turn the epic amp up to 11.