Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Berkeley Empties Its Dungeon

At last, Cardinal Biggles can no longer poke prisoners with the soft cushion. At least not in Berkeley.

(Article from my new favorite local news source, InBerkeley.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Genuine Article

I have this brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and the thing is, since they had a kid? They can never focus on the important things anymore. Like, when they lived in San Francisco? and they would watch the home shopping network in the middle of the night? and never buy anything?

God I miss those days.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stunning San Francisco time-lapse

Photographer Ben Wiggins likes to shoot time-lapse videos of cloud formations with his digital SLR camera. He also likes to photograph the transition from day to night. After dark he likes to shoot the flow of traffic, the glint of moonlight off the fog, and the dance of airplanes landing on and leaving the runway--like tiny fireflies in rhythmic formation.

Here Wiggins stitches together several sequences he shot in and around San Francisco this summer. It's awesome.

Click the four-arrow icon in the lower right corner to watch this fullscreen.

Another Cloud Reel... from Delrious on Vimeo.

Wiggins has other videos from the Fourth of July, the San Mateo County Fair midway at night, and underwater.

[via Laughing Squid]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guerilla graphic design: Cardon Copy

via Chris Jobs at Curbly

Graphic designer Cardon Webb takes flyers posted in the neighborhood. Re-designs them. Not just re-designs: admittedly, he hijacks the flyer and overwhelms the essential content with design.

Then he puts it back where he found it.

Essential content is lost in the translation.

But, oh, what fun for fans of design.

Cardon Copy

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Catching Up With Auto-Tune

I was about to post the link to the latest edition of Auto-Tune the News (#8) to the new Twitter feed when I stopped to consider that many of the current readers of Blognabbit/Twignabbit may be a bit old/white/tired/busy to have much pop-cultural context.

When I confirmed that neither Christa nor Tim were familiar with the seven previous editions I knew I needed to write more than six words about it.

"Auto-Tune" is the brand name of a digital audio processing technology used to correct pitch (on vocals or instruments). Since its creation in the 1990s it's been used to subtly (and unsubtly) modify musical performances both in the studio and live on stage, by pushing tones forcibly into perfectly tuned pitch.

Cher's single "Believe" (1998) was the first American pop hit to use Auto-Tune as a conscious aesthetic effect, with the settings cranked into overdrive. Previous uses of the technology had worked to hide its presence. At its most extreme, Auto-Tune eliminates the voice's natural ability to glide between pitches, creating a synthetic stair-step effect. Cher and her producers took what had been considered a quirk and placed it into the foreground.

While I primarily associate Auto-Tune with the singing of The Backyardigans, anyone listening to Top 40 radio or music videos since 2007 (anyone? anyone?) would have heard and seen the rise of singer-producer T-Pain as the new king* of Auto-Tune, who has been popping up with hyper-processed backing vocals and refrains on hit after hit** on the R&B and hip-hop charts. While the technology was more than a decade old (and available to anyone with a Mac and Garageband), T-Pain brought a particular gift for Auto-Tuned lyrical hooks and melodies that have continued to keep him in high demand. His surge in popularity led to a revival of Auto-Tune among a variety of artists across multiple pop musical genres.

In June 2008 Sasha-Frere Jones was clueing in readers of The New Yorker to the reign of T-Pain. But by the beginning of 2009 T-Pain's ubiquity had started to become a punch line--one the singer was happy to play along with, kicking off Saturday Night Live's (i.e. The Lonely Island's) "I'm On a Boat" (clean or uncensored YouTube links) with his trademark call "Shawt-ay-ay!"***

This past spring saw the debut of "Auto-Tune the News", a loopy series of music videos applying Auto-Tune to political speeches and television talking heads. Ridiculous wigs, a gorilla costume, and low-tech greenscreen effects belie the creators' lyrical and musical dexterity, as they spin the words of Joe Biden, Newt Gingrich, Katie Couric (their favorite muse), and a variety of members of Congress into Auto-Tuned musical gold. (Interspersed with several "Shawt-ay-ays".)

Here's the 6th edition, featuring Anoka's own queen of darkness Michelle Bachman, plus Nancy Pelosi, minority leader John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and Jackson Family attorney Brian Oxman:

In June Jay-Z declared the "Death of Auto-Tune" with the lead single off his new album, criticizing other artists for "T-Painin' too much." But despite his seniority in the rap world (or perhaps because of it), his exhortation won't likely dim the use of the technology any time soon, if a quick listen across the top 40 charts in Pop, R&B, Country, and Hip-Hop offers any indication.

Which brings us to this week, and the release of Auto-Tune the News #8. The latest edition features none other than: T-Pain, who turns his appearance into a commercial for his other new release of the week: the "I Am T-Pain" iPhone app.

The app is a collaboration between T-Pain, Antares (the originators of the technology), and Smule--a top-notch iPhone developer that grew out of Stanford's electronic music performance department, making it no mere novelty. For $2.99 you can download a mobile version of Auto-Tune with which you use your iPhone/iPod for on-demand vocal processing.

And by branding it as a T-Pain experience (with the app's name and icon), the "king" keeps his name synonymous with the technology, even if its only use is to goof off with your buddies while you're waiting in line for a movie (the app also makes it easy to share via MySpace and Facebook).

Within a couple of days the application reached the #1 spot among paid apps in iTunes. Meaning that Jay-Z's proclamation notwithstanding, it remains T-Pain's world. We just sing "Shawt-ay-ay" in it.

Here's a playlist of all of the Auto-Tune the News videos, in sequential order. It'll take a good half hour if you want to watch them straight through. (YouTube link):

And I'm assuming you've seen "I'm On a Boat", right? Because that thing gets funnier every time you watch it. (clean or uncensored)

Here's T-Pain's website, YouTube channel, and Twitter feed.

And if you're not sick of it by now, here's another funny internet video positing the use of Auto-Tune in the workplace.


*Given the outfits and antics he often displays in music videos, T-Pain could as easily be described by overeducated postgrads as the clown prince--or even mascot--of Auto-Tune.

**"Good Life" with Kanye West (winner of the 2008 Grammy for Best Rap Song), "Kiss Kiss" with Chris Brown (prior to Brown's domestic violence conviction), "Low" with Flo Rida (a favorite on the Ellen show), plus tons more. You can check out iTunes' "Essentials" list of the top T-Pain tracks for sale.

***An Auto-Tuned pronunciation of "Shawty", itself a variant of "Shorty", the 00s alternate for "Girl".

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Average Rating: 3 Stars

What's a consumer to make of two business reviews on Citisearch? One's a 5-star and the other a 1-star. Should I just average them as Citisearch so helpfully does for me? Or perhaps reading the reviews will give me a little insight:

EZ Cleaners, 2308 Colorado Blvd, Pasadena CA

In this corner, alex c:

I've been going to EZ Cleaners for more than a year and their service is nothing but excellent. I am extremely happy when I receive my clothes because not once did I have a complaint. I trust my most expensive garment to be in their care and they also have reasonable prices.
PROS: great service, good prices

But does he/she trust his/her second-most expensive garment?

And in this corner, Barbara S:

Over the course of two years, this dry cleaners damaged 4 different pieces of clothing and then refused to take responsiblity. When it was brought to owner's, attention, he said that I don't have proof that he did the damage because he didn't charge me for cleaning the item. Believe me he would have taken the money if I had been willing to pay for the poor service they provided. I refused to pay after seeing the damage. Did he think I would actually pay him for damaging my expensive clothing? The owner is rarely at his store, but instead is out opening more locations. His employees (the one's snagging, ripping, spotting
etc...the clothes) are not experienced in the dry cleaning business. Be aware of this sweat shop type place and take your nice clothes to a professional dry cleaners because this place sucks.
PROS: cheap prices
CONS: worst dry cleaners in town

Maybe I can request the one that's not snagging, ripping, spotting etc...the clothes.