Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We're on our own here

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Matthew 16:28

It's pretty clear this means that he's already come back, and that happened quite some time ago. We're all on our own from now on. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Drums. Rise.

In order to help with happiness along the lines of the drum department it would be nice to do a couple things.
Unfortunately the one big thing I can't do, even though it would cause drummers to be vastly happier, would be to get an awesome set of DW or maybe Gretch acoustic drums and mic them up with $25,000 worth of microphones in a beautiful room with a rack of tremendous mic preamps. That ain't happening. Both the noise and the cost of such a project put it out of range.
So what can I do? Well for one thing I do not have enough cymbals. Drum kit "size" is always measured in drums. But honestly after a few toms what more are you going to do? Hit drum go boom. How many more pitches and timbres of toms does a person really need? Exactly. A 5-piece is more than adequate.

But the colors of cymbals makes a big difference in one's life and it would be nice to have a couple extra crashes and at least one more ride. It's a bit of a pain to do though because I'd have to get a whole 'nuther module/drum-brain thing to plug them into and you don't really get a break buying those pieces à la carte. So I'm not going to do that right away.
However, making sure we don't irk neighbors is a major priority for me and I feel that a little drum platform is in order to reduce mechanical noise conducted through the structure of my floor into the apartment below (or, ostensibly, above). The kick drum pedal is the major culprit in such noise transmission. 
Auralex makes stuff called Platfoam which minimize but don't necessarily decouple the drums on the platform from the floor. The purpose of the Auralex product is primarily for acoustic drums, not for just trying to quiet down electronic drums.
SOS has a pretty good article on building an electronic drum platform. MDF and stuff called Regufoam 150 are used. They mention in the article that the Regufoam is expensive but I can't even get a price on it. I may actually own a piece which I got at Canal Rubber. It's only big enough to cover the kick-drum pedal. And I recall there being some sticker shock when I bought it. But I can say that it really does work wonders. (The problem is that I only have that one piece so the drummer's right foot is a bit higher than his left which is generally irksome.)
There's also some stuff called "green glue" which is used. That's pricey but not like the Regufoam. I mean heck, a freaking Regufoam mat the size of the drum rug might be exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Things on my Desk Today

Weller's post on distribution is excellent. I disagree with his look at LGBT and African-American films though: at this point those two genres are played out. They still exist but the audiences have gotten more discerning because the markets have tended to saturate so they aren't as open to indy filmmakers as they once were.
I would binge-watch all of The Expanse except that only episodes 1-4 are up. Here's an article on the development of the series.
The top and bottom 10 sci-fi and fantasy movies this year. I'm not sure I agree with every choice...
This spoiler-filled review of Star Wars 7 is pretty smart.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Is there a conspiracy to make popular music suck? Part I

Yes. Yes there is. There is an actual and active conspiracy to make sure that popular music is bland and terrible. This is a provable fact.

But first let's look at what's been going down in the world of songwriting.

There have been many "Tin Pan Alleys" in the history of the last 150 or so years of popular music. Their working methodologies have changed over the years. For the longest time there were teams of lyricists and songwriters. The lyricists wrote, well, the lyrics, and the writers came up with the melodies.
Now note that traditionally in copyright law the lyrics are half the publishing and the melody is the other half. There's nothing for other parts of the song. At one time this sort of made sense as "arrangements" are non-copyright-able and more difficult to define in a legally protect-able way.
And up until the Beatles the performers of songs were divorced of the composers of songs -- almost exclusively. So there was a brief period there where the "public" considered "artists" to be composers and performers of songs. In the so-called "rock" world this is still true. Even when artists have extra folks there in the studio (typically called "producers") who, in any sort of non-fictional universe would be considered co-writers of the music but keeping up appearances is the rule of the game so we won't worry about that now will we?

So where are we now? In most pop music there are numerous writers. They are divided now into the guys (and they're almost always guys) who write the "tracks" -- the chords and the beats, and the "top liners" who write the melodies and usually the lyrics.
Let me back up for a minute. Ever since Schoenberg we've sort of realized that there's no "new" music. It's impossible to write a melody in a tonal system that hasn't been heard before. I mean there's a real limited number of them. I don't know how to do the math but if a phrase is as long as 8 bars and a note is as long as 6 beats in 4/4 and as short as a 16th and we have 11 tones to choose from... there's gotta be a calculator for that. So there's theoretically some septillion number of melodies possible but for all practical purposes many of those melodies sound similar enough that they're "the same".
It could just be 79 billion unique melodies.

But I'm going to go ahead and say that tonally we're looking at only about a few thousand melodies.

That's not particularly relevant to the conversation at hand.
Okay, so pop music is created slightly differently than it used to be. That's no biggie. And it really all sounds very similar -- especially because we're using tonal scales with mostly blues progressions in 4/4 with accents on the 2nd and 4th beats. We've been doing all that for about 60 years now.

But why does pop music deliberately suck? Well, that's a matter of marketing and promotion. And it's also a matter for the second part of this essay.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Expanse

The aesthetic design of this TV show is... expensive looking. It's also quite sophisticated and beautiful. There are a LOT of different worlds they have to differentiate between, each with their own class systems and such. The story is totally solid with a good mystery to it. Acting and dialog are all top-shelf. I'm pretty happy with binge watching it. Especially whilst rendering.
  • The opening scene has the best 0-G I've ever seen in a TV show. Honestly it's really hard to pull off. Chance and I think her hair was CG, which makes the most sense. The rest of the zero - G stuff doesn't look nearly as nice but that opening... oof.
  • I'm envious of the armor the Mars navy wears. The shoulders are particularly nice.
  • I'm envious of all the chairs in all the cockpits. They're super nice. We have to get our chairs to look that nice.
I'm not a fan of glass cockpits but I do like that hanging Spock viewer thing the character 2nd from the left is looking through.
  • The costume design is overall very nice. Nice spacesuits. Are they refitted drysuits? I don't know.
  • They have nice Pip Boys on their wrists.

Ceilings and actual multi-levels on sets. I presume almost all the lighting is on-set. There's a couple beams from above but other than that the actors are kinda getting slapped with practicals.

  • Another thing which is nice is the wrist lights on spacesuits. Those are also nice.
  • The helmets are very good. You have to have a lot of faceplate so the audience can see who they're looking at. They do that very well as well as make them look fairly robust.
  • The chairs. I love all those dang chairs. Even the slightly dumb jump-seats. 
This is a good view of what the Pip Boys are like. I so want a Pip Boy. For me.
  • The CG ships are really quite nice on the whole. Even in multi-hundreds of million-dollar theatrical releases there are some effects which are just... missed. But they hold their own in this series. And it's not like they can reuse a lot of those effects either.
  • The way the miniguns come out of the hulls of spaceships is a very nice touch.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


The Blender Foundation seems to have done a good job making their Cycles renderer work really well with GPU on an Nvidia card. It doesn't work so great on AMD cards (which sort of eliminates Apple machines from the running). But objects set up with Cycles materials can party with fairly fast renders (on Nvidia cards).

Weirdly, Adobe seems to also favor Nvidia over AMD graphics. In my experience this means their Mercury playback engine works better on Nvidia which again means that Premiere and After Effects work better on PC's than on Macs.

Some ridiculous human (me) is having some old Blender models (which do look beautiful) fly by in a couple scenes and man, they take longer to render than I expect them to.

The thing I do desire with all my heart is that there be an easy way to render out a ground plane that is invisible but otherwise accepts shadows in Cycles. There is a kludgey way to do it by rendering out a separate ground plane which is mostly alpha channel with a shadow on it but it involves setting up multiple outputs and you have to composite them back together again in After Effects. And although that's not a nightmare because at least you get to fiddle with the amount of shadow, it's well... it's a kludge.

"Kludge" is a word according to my browser's dictionary apparently.

Huh. It never occurred to me that Ripley has a watch in Alien. She has one in Aliens. But the one in Alien was not that big a deal. Somebody sells the one from the videogame Alien Isolation. But in the original Alien it was apparently a couple Casio F100's put together on the same band.
So much rendering to do. 0 to 536, and then 936 to 1361.

Further Jessica Jones Thoughts

See, the reason Jessica Jones irked me so much is that it was so close to being great. And instead did the opposite of being great.
I mean basically Krystin Ritter could read the phone book and I'd pay admission to see it. And David Tennant is just fantastic. But. But oof.

You know, you read enough versions of enough screenplays and you start to see recognizable echoes of earlier drafts. Oh. And spoilers ahead. Did I mention spoilers?

I bet there was an earlier draft of the Jessica Jones series where the vaccine the Purple Man's father was making worked. Because I kept expecting that to go somewhere. Like the scene where he tried to get his own dad to blender his own (the dad's) hand. Like that was a make-or-break moment where the dad had to commit to pretending to be under his son's control. And that the amplifying thing the dad was working on wasn't going to work.

Because otherwise, what was the whole antidote thing about? It never went anywhere. Dramatically that's pretty sloppy.

Dramatically it was a nice turn where we find that Kilgrave was abused as a child. But then that sort of went to pot as it turns out it wasn't true and blah-blah-blah. But what would have been vastly more interesting is if Kilgrave's whole persona, his whole being, was that there was someone worse than him. Someone who could control Kilgrave. Someone who made this tender and abused little boy into a monster. So that while he was cruelly controlling and sadistically toying with other people it was all because someone else was forcing him to do it.

Now that would have been an interesting turn. Then the huge irony is that indeed Jessica Jones would have to team up with Kilgrave to defeat the bigger monster.

You know what TV show did that well? Blade. Yup, Blade the series. That show was terrifically well written. The villain goes from being a guy you can't wait to see die to someone who's actually sympathetic. And then you want to straight-up murder a little girl (and, you know since this is spoilery to start with I may as well point out that Blade does not hesitate when the time comes to take her out). The girl is evil evil evil and dangerous (and, you know, not actually a little girl). And Blade doesn't not do things just because it would be the end of the series. No, they waive putting the two in a room together until the last episode. As it should be.

These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night. 

Scamming Landlords

Look. A couple ads for spaces at 356 Broadway, New York, NY 10013
Jody Susler and Ben Schneeberg seem to have lost yet another tenant in the last 15 days. Or they're just publishing pictures of offices randomly to bait-and-switch prospective tenants.

Here's one.
And another.

They're trying to backcharge me for things. Obviously we left the office spotless (see pictures in post below). But they won't answer my emails.

Somebody really should flag their ads because ultimately they're just scammers. Just click the "prohibited" box at the top of the page.

This owl is about how I feel.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

356 Broadway Landlords

Wow, so my former commercial landlords are a real couple of scumbags. Jody Susler and Ben Schneeberg of 356 Spaces, LLC, are trying to really juice me for the deposit.

I got an email at 5pm today demanding that I return the keys, the repeater, and pick up the furniture they say we left there by end of business day tomorrow or they'll bill me for a new repeater, furniture disposal, and new locks.

They don't really tell me where I would return them to because they, of course, have no office. But rather than doing anything reasonably they prefer to do everything in a way that causes the most discontent. They like that.

Here's today's insane email:

Final Notice: Repeater / keys / furniture


If you do not remove your furniture and return our repeater and keys by the close of business hours tomorrow (12/16) we will have the furniture disposed of; purchase a new repeater; and replace the locks at your expense.

356 Spaces, LLC

Monday, December 14, 2015

And 3

So they've re-plastic'ed thusly:

These were pictures sent by my landlord.

No, I do not know what's up with that broom.

Ugh 2

I visited my apartment today. This is my bathroom.
Here is where my shower once was.

In yonder days I had a flushable toilet here, children.

This be where the sink once set upon a counter.

This is the ceiling above my tub and shower.
Ah. Remember indoor plumbing? It is but a distant memory to me.

Ugh 1

So I visited my apartment today.

For some reason they'd taken down all the plastic they'd put up and now everything is a terrifyingly filthy mess.


It's hard to see but there is construction dust EVERYWHERE.


Yelling At Comic Books

I am angry at Jessica Jones.

[Marsian Queen]: I apologize on behalf of a show I've never seen.
Thank you. I feel better about that.
Actually, the same thing irked me about Batman.
"Here's your opportunity to kill the very very bad guy. But just stand there and talk to him instead."
[Marsian Queen]: The opposite of the James Bond problem?
Ha! Yes.
Except that the good guy just... refuses for some odd reason to kill the bad guy.
Or you'll have a character who doesn't believe the bad guy can control minds, but breaks him out of prison to help get her spouse to sign divorce papers because he can control minds... and doesn't see how that might go wrong for her.

So the last thing he orders the spouse to do is to slash the lawyer with a thousand cuts and while she's doing that the lawyer's lover shows up and kills the spouse. Yet somehow the law has it that the lover is being charged with murder for that. Because. Squirrels.

And the whole reason for not killing him is to prove that some girl who he made kill her parents -- is not guilty of killing her own parents. But in the course of tracking him down there are dozens of other witnesses that he can do that -- including a police officer.
Then there are about 30 police officers who get the same treatment. They are all unimpeachable witnesses. (There is some lame-o explanation later that they'd be suspended from the force if they told anybody about it.)
But no -- the plan is to have ONE cop (who's getting close to retirement) watch while the bad guy makes his own mom kill herself. Which isn't proof because all the cop sees is the bad guy telling his mom to stab herself and she does. How would he know mind-control was at work here? When this same cop had already seen 30 of his fellow cops put their own guns to their heads at this guy's command.
[Marsian Queen]: I recommend sedatives and restraints. Perhaps a nice cat to pet.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Composites and Rotoscopes

I'm the one responsible for most of the rotoscoping.
My first complaint is working in 4K. It's like just as we get computers fast enough to do fancy stuff in HD we have to quadruple the processing needs. Sheesh.
For some reason I decided to do this one shot as a 950-frame shot.
After Effects does some fairly decent auto-rotoscoping these days. But sometimes it does something weird like when it took away Kate's face. 

Kate with automatically removed face.
But doing a tiny bit of manual roto to get things back to normal is worth the effort.
Kate with manually replaced face.
I'm adding a lot of dust to shots. The dust is impossible to see in stills.
Kate among the dead and the quick.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Power Trio

The power trio is a fantastically difficult thing to pull off musically. First of all the rhythm section has to be astounding. In the case of Bonham and Jones you're pretty well covered.
But as much as I like to tease about how sloppy the guitar player is allowed to be when the rhythm section is super together, the guitar has a unique issue in that it's both a rhythm and lead instrument simultaneously.
The Who solved this by making the bass player play more "lead" than is typical in a rock band. But still Townshend's switching back and forth from rhythm to lead was rather informative to my own interest in guitar.
In Achilles Last Stand, Jimmy Page manages to pull of the elusive thing where the guitar plays a lead without the "middle dropping out" of the sound. It's rather hard to do.

I think that one reason Greg Bartus and I tend to play well together is that we both come from power trio backgrounds so we're sort of used to holding onto that middle to keep it from dropping out.

Huh. It just occurred to me that this Zeppelin tune is rather Who-like in that although there are points where they do their sort of trademark everybody-plays-together blues, the bulk of the tune is the bass and drums playing fast and together while guitar is doing huge open chords against the rhythm section.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


So my bathroom is being demolished. Yet. Again. Seriously, this is the third or fourth time. Here are pictures my landlord sent of what they've been doing to protect my apartment. I'm in hiding. I'm not coming out until Winter is over. ;-)

Monday, December 07, 2015

Diatomaceous Earth Hieroglyphic Overdrive

So here's the thing. This is a "proof of concept". This was taking three somewhat random cameras and having them roll while we did a song.

Of course during the one best take, one of the cameras never rolled. So everything from that angle, which is the only angle you can see Lou, the drummer, is from a completely different take. And from there sync actually gets worse.
You might ask yourself, or ask me: "Drew, why is there only one performer covered in a single, and that performer is you?" I would try to answer that it was not intentional.
I need LED clip lights for each performer. Don't I? Yes, I believe I do.
Also, the mix is very quick and dirty. In fact, I never did quite get the drum mapping right -- which is going to irritate Lou to no end. The picture edit is very dirty Yup, I'm making excuses. That's all I got. But next time we'll do so much better! And next time is Friday!
Also, I'll drop a slate at the top of the song. And make sure I look thinner.

Sunday, December 06, 2015


The Beuchat Baltik is an awfully inexpensive drysuit.

The only reviews are sort of wishy-washy. The legs are thin and the torso seems a bit short. Legs being tight actually have an advantage in that ostensibly air is kept out of the legs.
But for less than $700 it's pretty cool. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Session prep

I list some songs for the Diatomaceous Earth combo video/album here.

You'd think the Lehle volume pedal would be the active volume pedal to beat, wouldn't you? Of course, it's almost $300.

Greg pointed out that this session, Diluvia, has some very interesting things on it. Meaning the first two tunes.

End of an Era

So, the buttmunch landlords at 365 Broadway, Ben and Jody, are of course balking at giving us our deposit back.

Luckily I was smart enough to not pay the last month's rent.
Right now they're pretending that we left a desk there, and that I have a cell phone repeater of theirs. Which, I mean, why would it be in my office where I'm paying the electric?
Sigh. The amount of money just isn't worth it. It would be really nice to have non-psychotic landlords one day.