Friday, October 27, 2006

Oh Frabjous Day!

Good things have been coming in the mail recently ... = )

Number One: my latest threadless t-shirt arrived yesterday:
Haikus are easy but... - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever
(no: that's not me in the photo, thank God)
When read the slogan on this one, I knew I just had to get it.


Number Two: a nice letter from the Traffic Police. Now, you may be wondering how it's possible to receive a nice letter from the TP, but when that letter begins:

"Dear Sir/Madam,
We here herewith enclose your photocard driving licence"

it's a nice letter = )

So yes, I may be a very late starter with this whole driving licence thing, but it's nice to finally get that out of the way.

Number Three: 3 (not one, not two, but three) DVDs in the mail: Galactica Seasons 2.0 and 2.5, and Sin City.

And all on a long weekend. Woohoo! Time enough to settle down with a nice book (Hibbert's The Great Mutiny: India 1857) and maybe think about watching one of the DVD sets.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Musical genre problems

What is "pop"?

Does the Eurythmic's "Here Comes the Rain" count as "pop"? What about Depeche Mode? Or is that "alternative"? Can you retroactively apply a genre classification that wasn't around when the song was recorded? What about "folk" – how can you tell if a song is "folk" rather than "alternative"? What genre do you assign to a 30 minute recording of eskimo janitors taking over a Canadian radio station during a strike and dj-ing? (honest: here) Or Van Morrison's contractual obligation album – "crap"?

All this is has been occasioned by the purchase of a new iPod nano (since the unfortunate accident with the trusty iPod). The fact that I cannot simply copy over my entire music library (the nano being 4 GB small, and the library being 20+ GB large, and growing) has awakened in me an obsessive need to organise my music, so that I can sort and choose by categories.

I started last night, when I realised that the genre categories assigned to some of my tracks were off, simply because I've been using iTunes' automatic feature to pull down track names and categories from an online database. The quality of the service is patchy at best: typos in track names are common, and the genre assignments are completely off. More importantly, since iTunes allows you to only assign one genre to a song, it's left me struggling with the task of deciding what category a song fits in.

If it's one person on an acoustic guitar (say, Dan Bern or Ani DiFranco), is it folk or acoustic? Does it matter if s/he's a singer songwriter? What about two people on guitars (Lawrence Juber and Preston Reed) – instrumental? folk? acoustic? If you put a new age(ish) musician (Pierre Bensusan) and a jazz(ish) musician (Didier Malherbe) together, what do you categorise their live performance as? Do live versions of the same song take on the same category as the original – and if they're acoustic versions, should I change the category? When some one does a folksy cover of gansta rap, (Nina Gordon, Straight Outta Compton) which category does the song take – the original (rap), or the reinterpretation (... er ... girly folk)?

And for that matter, why is NWA's Straight Outta Compton categorised as classical in my music folder?!? Since when is Leonard Cohen rock? And (to come back to my original question) what the hell is pop anyway? And what does alternative mean when there's no definitive mainstream to be an alternative to?

These are the dilemmas that have occupied me for a night and a morning.

All this, of course, could be easily solved if iTunes used a tag system, in recognition of the fact that few things in this world fall easily and only into one category at a time. A system that assigns tags, each describing a quality (for example "live", "acoustic", "folk" etc) would be more precise and useful. On Fridays I could simply decide to fill my iPod with songs tagged "happy", and on Mondays songs tagged "moody", "bleak" and "instrumental". And possibly "rain".

(and it may be a symptom of this increasing obesssion with taxonomy, but the new nano is now named Ariel, in accordance with the same naming convention that has my two external hard drives named Titania and PuckOberon being reserved for a MacBook Pro somewhere in my future)

(oh, and though I didn't know it, yesterday was 5 years to the day the original iPod was launched, which lends a nice symmetry to the whole affair. Happy Birthday iPod: I couldn't begin to describe how much I've depended on you these 5 years to shelter me from garrulous cab-drivers, unwanted conversations, and the distracting noises of that thing called the Rest of the World)

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Cat Little


tickle cat and cat little, originally uploaded by Wahj.

The story behind this picture:

My wife and I came across these feeding bowls downstairs a few weeks ago. "Tickle Cat" is presumably the mother cat we've seen hanging around, and "Cat Little" must be the kitten. Someone was feeding them, though by the time we saw this, only the kitten could be seen – mottled black, and in many ways resembling our Iffy.

Over the next few days we saw the kitten only, always waiting at the bottom of the staircase, or lounging in one of the shoe racks. One night, we came back and found her mewling piteously, her voice all raspy as if she'd been crying all day. K correctly surmised that she was hungry, and when we brought down a bowl of water, she lapped it almost all up, and then ate half a can of cat food. She must have felt better after that, because she immediately started play-pouncing on us (kittens: irrepressible – one minute after being pulled away from the brink of starvation/dehydration, and they're back to playing).

The next day, the cleaners came to wash the floors, and we haven't seen her since. That was more than a week ago. We're hoping that some family – perhaps the one that's been feeding them – took her in. Certainly, given the noise and water from the hoses, she would have instinctively ran through one of the open doors for shelter. Still, we don't know for sure. The only consolation, and it is a very minor one, is that at least she had a good meal, a full belly, and was happy the last time we saw her.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

This is just getting ridiculous

My nose has been running non-stop for 2 days. My throat is red from coughing. My eyes are tearing. My dustbin is filling up with wads of tissue paper.

All because of the haze floating over from Sumatra.

Not only is it bad for the health, it's hurting the planet. Deforestation is the second largest contributor to global warming. While we're coughing our lungs out over here, somewhere over there Sumatra is going up in smoke. Rainforest ecosystems a few thousand years old are being burned down in a few days. They won't grow back.

We should just go ahead and paint a giant yellow box* round this country, because breathing in this haze is probably equivalent to smoking a few cigarettes – in fact, these forest fires have made a nation of passive smokers of the lot of us.

I'd write more but I have to go blow my nose again.

(* yellow box: used to indicate smoking areas in army camps. Also where the best conversation can usually be found. And ironically, for the next few weeks at least, possibly where the best quality of air can be found as well. At the very least, it won't be worse than just breathing in this)

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