Sunday, February 26, 2006

The "loser culture"

Sunday, February 26, the Olympic ice-hockey finals, the two arch-rivals Finland and Sweden face each other once more. Finland had been strong the whole tour, winning every game they had played, and looking as if they could go the whole way. No team had ever played every games unbeaten.

A couple of hours later, and still, no team has gone every game unbeaten.For Finns, the situation is painfully familiar. Another big game lost. Another big game against Sweden lost. It seems like whenever Finland and Sweden meet the lions just lose their roar. It's come to the point that my friends and me even expect Finland to lose. Even the Finland-Swedish commentators mentioned the "loser culture" that seems to be so prominent in Finnish hockey. I think the statistics they mentioned was that, of the last eight big finals that Finland has played, they have won one.Though to limit it to ice-hockey isn't telling the whole story. There's a long history of putting yourself down in Finland, to not expect too much. It also happens just between friends, in the form of joking stabs. It's like mutated modesty, where the goal is not only to down-play your own qualities, but to actively insult yourself.There's something called "Jante-lagen", translated as the Jante-law, of Danish/Norwegian origin, that too many seem to live by. It basically states that you shouldn't think too highly of yourself.

I'll come right out and say that I hate this kind of thinking. It's that kind of thinking that can bring a good man down, that fosters the "what-is-it-good-for" loser-attitude ingrained since birth. That's the kind of attitude that can make an otherwise good team consistantly lose big games.

So for the sake of our mental health, success of the country, and success for Finland in ice-hockey in the next Olympic games in four years: compliment yourself and your friends more often. Now if we could just learn to receive compliments without immediately negating them them...

***
Here's a guitar song my brother made. If you listen really carefully you might hear some ambient synth pad he asked me to put in.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

George Martin on the early Beatles

[...] the Beatles' demo tape had been "pretty lousy" and "very badly balanced" and contained "not very good songs" by "a rather raw group," Martin has recalled [...]

In the beginning, Martin was tough on the group. "As composers, they didn't rate. They hadn't shown me that they could write anything at all," he told Melody Maker.
-Salon.com, article on George Martin
Perhaps there is hope for me still.

The article also quite rightly indicates the importance of the producer. Remember Bruce Springsteen singing about the million-dollar sound? That can also refer to the price of the producer.

Citizen pacifist

So. Our cousin from England is visiting us, and my letter to the editor came up. She wanted to know what it was about and I explained as best I could about how it's now illegal to bypass copy-protetection. And then when I was finished, I don't remember her exact response, but it was along the lines of "better stop doing it, then". No, people! No! If you've copied your purchased DVDs for backup-purposes before, don't stop doing it just because they've outlawed it! I'm not saying that you shouldn't follow laws, but this is one that is completely paid for by the corporations. It does nothing for the citizen except making more of them "criminals".

Many times during history have laws been broken to further mans freedom. Remember the Boston tea-party? Freedom never comes for free.

The White Album

The Beatles' The White album, that is.

I've been listening to it quite a lot lately, and it's just struck me how damn good it is. It's the kind of album that few artists manage to make, and then most times it's just one time during their career. Then I think that these are the same guys that also made Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, widely regarded to be one of the best rock albums ever, and I'm just amazed at the songwriting capability that they had. Especially the songs on The White Album sound instantly classic, though I guess that could be because I've heard them many times before, even before hearing the CD, like Back In The U.S.S.R. and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. But the other songs that weren't so familiar to me also seem to have something basic about them, something wonderfully simple, as if they tapped into some stream that lies dormant in the human brain, with the melodies resonating in the minds of those who hear them. Something so new, but something familiar at the same time.

Now why can't I write songs like that?

***
In related news, I think I've almost got the chord progression down for Orange Range's Hana. (If you haven't heard it, check out the video at Youtube.) When I can play it I'll just need to learn the lyrics!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I'm such a noob

Reading this interview with Ken Lewis.
Q: In the mixing process, which instrument do you rough in first? Is there a particular order that seems to work for you?

A: The first thing i try to do is a very fast rough mix of the song. All faders down to start, and two full passes top to bottom to get EVERYTHING balanced and listenable (i've been doing this a while). then i might sit back and simply listen to the song many times just to catch a vibe. When i think i have the song internalized, i'll often go back to building the mix from scratch, usually drums first, then bass, guitars, etc..... At some point early, i'll bring in the vocal, and just keep it low so i remember its there, and so i remember to carve a nice big hole in the mix for it to live. Personally, i like to mix fast early on, I probably do 80% of my mixing in the first hour or two, and might spend another 8 hours tweeking, refining, trying special ideas, etc... but it will almost always sound like a song within 2 hours. it may not sound like a finished mix for ten hours.
And I have basically no idea what's being discussed half the time. That I would call myself a producer is an insult to every real producer out there. I imagine this is the feeling that a goldfish gets when it's dumped in the ocean after being in an aquarium all of its life.

I should just go back to the sandbox and let the big boys handle the real work.

Rick Wakeman is a wanker

And here's a video that proves it:I wonder what you have to sacrifice to the synthesizer-gods to be able to play like that?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Why don't I go clubbing as often anymore?

You might not be able to tell just by looking at me, but I really enjoy(ed) the whole "going out drinking & dancing"-thing. I don't go out that often nowadays, but that's not because drinking and dancing has lost any of it's charms, in fact you could argue that I know myself better now and I can drink more responsibly, without going overboard. That I usually don't have any left-over money is a good excuse (spending most of it on Japanese imports), but another reason is that I've become really paranoid about my hearing. Lately my tinnitus seems to have become more prevalent, something that's probably caused by too much playing/mixing base-heavy tracks with headphones.

The whole tinnitus thing didn't even start in any cool way; not from clubbing, I've been out less than my brother and I don't think he has any, not from concerts or anything either. No, I'm pretty sure it started all because I had to drill a hole in a brick-wall and forgot about protecting my ears. (Though there weren't any ear-protectors either, by the time I came to think of it I was told to just stick toilet paper in my ears.) Lame way to start losing your hearing.

Looking at the Dictionary.com entry...
a sensation of noise (as a ringing or roaring) that is caused by a bodily condition (as a disturbance of the auditory nerve or wax in the ear) and can usually be heard only by the one affected
"[C]an usually be heard only by the one affected"? You mean it can sometimes be heard by others?!

Anyway, it's been suggested that I just use ear-plugs when going out clubbing, but I'd think it would feel weird. Maybe I'll try sometime and see how it is.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I Spy

As Defined by John Schmor, PhD: Camp is Failed Seriousness.
-J.Y. Hash, Urban Dictionary: Camp
I have a thing for old spy-shows like The Saint, I Spy and my favourite The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I also like the old Bond-movies, but that's not really the same thing, that's more "serious" plots, while the stories in I Spy and especially The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can be incredibly ridiculous. But that's part of the charm of it, I think. It's a sort of childish disregard for logic and reason that's charming, funny and just plain stupid all at the same time! The incredibly badly made special effects just add to the experience.
For example, just in last night's episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Illya Kuryakin (I love that name) was buried alive in concrete and miraculously survived, though no effort whatsoever was made to explain how he survived! And then later in the show he rode on a bomb dropped from a plane in a scene almost directly copied from Dr. Strangelove (another name I love), and then when he was done "defusing" it (it turned out to be just a stinkbomb rather than the atomic bomb everyone thought it was) he jumped off it to parachute down! How is it possible to jump off from a falling bomb?!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dreams

Like I mentioned before, last week I dreamt that I got a package I was waiting for, and then the next day I got it. Well, last night I dreamt that I found a roll of see-through adhesive tape I had been looking for the previous evening, and when I got up this morning I found it right on the table! Here's hoping I dream of winning the lottery next time...

Music production

In the shower just now (yes, I'm an evening-shower-person), and I started thinking about music again. Not an unusual occurance, but this time I started thinking about music production.

In case you didn't know, arranging/producing/mixing music is one of the most fickle tasks there are. Imagine the most involved strategy game ever made, with hundreds of variables that all affect the whole in the most subtle but important ways, and you still haven't enough complexity to reach what you can easily come up against in a relatively "simple" audio application like Garageband. I remember playing a lot of Civilization when I was a kid, but damn! Comparing Civ to Garageband is like comparing chocolate to cocain.

After starting fiddling around with Garageband, I've also started noticing more of the subtleties in music. I probably never reach the level where I can hear everything, but that isn't my goal either (thank god). What I'm aiming for is a tighter grip on the music. Not just for creative control, but so I won't be in the position where money is spent on hiring some outsider who I then have to rely on to make or break the piece.

Now when I listen to something that has been really tightly produced I just wonder in amazement how much work is put into it... Take Utada Hikaru's Deep River album, especially tracks like Sakura Drops, Traveling, Letters, Tokyo Nights and Hikari. Who's call was it to put in the strings or the oboe in (the currently playing) Tokyo Nights? (If you want to hear for yourself you can ask to borrow the album if you're one of the people who actually meets me in real life.) It boggles my mind. Boggles, I tell you.

***
This is funny. It's a short movie (approx. 15 min) discussing how Asian men have problems getting girls. Safe for work, but your boss would probably give you an angry glare if you were caught watching it while you're supposed to work.

Though it's wrong in the hypothesis that it's the hair that attracts chicks. I'm practically covered in hair myself, so I should know. Especially my eyebrows are extremely wild-growing. It almost looks like they're trying to make a run for the hair-line. I swear, soon enough my whole forehead will be covered in hair, it's freaky.

***
Addendum: I forgot to mention that this post was originally meant to be about my fear of hights, and that I consider myself more of a "producer"-type than a "musician"-type.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Going south

Just a few more short hours before the whole family starts for southern Finland (for the funeral). As for travel literature, I have my two kanji books:Usually I have problems reading in cars, but I think practising stroke-orders in the air will be much easier. And it gives me something to do for the amount of hours the car-ride takes.

While looking around at Amazon for the images, I also found the picture for the next kanji book:Mmm... intermediate...

Friday, February 10, 2006

A brief moment of panic / One-eyed Jack

I had a brief moment of panic at my seemingly wasted life just now, while reading one of the various blogs by foreigners in Japan. It was a post about drinking habits at Guldgossen (Swedish), if you want to know (but don't use any of the Japanese phrases there as they don't seem to be 100% correct). It's hard to put it down in words now afterwards, but as I was reading about how the Swedish and the Japanese drinking habits of students differ I had an incredibly strong feeling that I would never experience that, drinking and partying alongside Japanese students as an exchange-student myself.

The memory of the feeling is getting harder and harder to remember, but it was shortly followed by a sense that a lot of my life has been wasted. Basically, I felt that I'm getting old. A feeling that it's almost over. I'm going to be 24 this year and what do I have to show for it? No education, no real job experience, no books written, no previous relationships, etc. Though it could probably have something to do with the upcoming funeral I'm going to. Perhaps I'm worried about what kind of legacy I'll eventually be leaving after me. When faced with death you have a tendency to want to quantify your life somehow, adding up the achievements, but always coming up short.

However! As I said, that feeling was just a fleeting one. It didn't take long before I felt OK again. Strange. And then I thought about the things that I have actually started on: deciding that just wanting to learn piano isn't enough, so I started playing a bit, that just thinking "man, it would be cool to speak Japanese" wasn't enough, so I started learning.

It's not fast going, but I have to remind myself that it's not just the destination that matters; the journey itself is also half the reward.

***
You might know that I wear glasses. The reason for this is that I have a condition known as "lazy eye". This is when the muscles on one of the eyes haven't developed enough and so the brain automatically priotitizes the properly aligned one. This in turn causes the vision in the bad eye to deteriorate. In my case it's the left eye that's weaker.

It's most noticeable when I look in a mirror trying to look straight ahead, my left eye will be pointing a bit to the side.

I think it was discovered sometime during 9th grade (15 year old). Though I still held of using glasses because I was quite an inconfident fellow back then. I think it was only when I started driving that I started using them more often.

Anyway, I was reading on the 'net that young children can do exercises to gradually train the muscles in the defective eye to co-operate, and I though "hmm, can't hurt". That's why you might see me sometimes practicing looking at my nose, cross-eyed. Before the left eye would always shoot off to the left when I tried it, but I've worked on it and now I can do it. But strangely enough I always get a bit dizzy when doing so. I also read that young children can wear a patch over the better eye for a while each day, so the weaker eye gets practice. That's why the second half of the title of this post is suitably called "One-eyed Jack", as it was written while my right eye was covered.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Flying High

Here's a short simple one I tossed together in Garageband one evening. If you listen carefully you can hear my heavily digitized voice (because my normal voice sound too weird for myself).

Also, while listening to the earlier "Untitled piano demo" again I came to the conclusion that my timing on it really sucks. Will have to record a better one later.

***
Last night I dreamt that I got a package in the mail with a DVD I had ordered. It was then a joyous shock when I got home and discovered that I had actually gotten the package with the DVD I had ordered. Freaky.

The DVD was a music DVD by TM Network, a Japanese band that was mostly active in the 80's.

***
Sometimes it feels like everybody are going to Japan except for me.

日本に行きたいよ!
日本に行ったら、中古CD屋で古いの小室哲哉のソロCDを買います。

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Help!

Help! I need somebody
Help! Not just anybody
Help! You know I need someone
Help!
-The Beatles, Help!
Lately I've been listening to The Beatles quite a lot. When I was younger I thought that people who listened to "old stuff" like that were a bit snobby, but as I've grown older I've really come to appreciate it. So does that mean I'm old or snobby? (Don't answer that please...)

Another reason I've been listening to them is that they have a lot of catchy songs, the kind that I would like to write myself, so I'm hoping for some inspiration. More specifically, it's the upbeat love-songs that I really like, such as the aforementioned Help!, A Hard Days Night, Can't Buy Me Love, She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, etc.

***
It was a bit comical earlier today when the class disappointed the teacher by not knowing basic copulas... To my defence I can only say that I had slept badly and so wasn't on the top of my game.

ごめんね、エロマー先生…

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Fucking shit.

I don't normally use that foul language in writing, but I've hit a wall in Ouendan so impenetrable that it's not even funny. It's not even the last level, it's one that I actually have finished once, but I seem completely unable to replicate that feat.

Let me give you an example: after every time I play that song, failing every time, I get an urge to just toss the DS away and/or break something. So far I've mostly taken my aggressions out on the little stylus used to control the game, trying to snap it in two out of pure frustration. For better or worse, it seems pretty sturdy, as so far it has only bent willingly in whatever direction. This has caused it to become a bit crooked and white with the colour of stretched plastic. Good thing I have another one, but if I keep this up I'll probably have to buy a couple of spare ones.

At this point I almost enjoy rehearsing kanji more than playing.

***
I had a bit of a panic-moment today when driving home from town as a traffic light switched over to red as I was in that in-between zone where you can't really drive through, but it's still a bit short distance to stop safely in time due to the icy road. I went for the stop and was a bit flustered when I noticed the car slipping. In the end I overshot the stop-line with a meter or two, but fortunately I had a big lead on the car behind me, so I could reverse the car safely. Had I been quick enough to think of also engine-breaking (shifting down while breaking to slow down faster) I probably would have stopped in time, but it's hard to think when you're panicking.

No need for sermons about driving more safely, please.

Japan SAQ

Their large testicles are a representation of fertility and good fortune, and are said to be the source of their magical powers. The tanuki's large testicles are associated with wealth because the Japanese colloquial word for testicle is kindama, which means golden ball. In Japanese mythology, the Tanuki's scrotum can be enlarged to as much as eight tatami mats (one tatami is about 6'x3') and they play them like a drum.
-Japan SAQ (Seldomly Asked Questions)
You don't say..?

Kudos to Undercover in Japan for the hook-up.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Good evening

This was a really eventful evening! There was a thing about Japanese culture at the school (arranged by AIESEC) and it was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

It started with our teacher doing a brief presentation of the Japanology education there (or at least he said it was going to be brief), and after that on to presentation of Jrock and Visual Kei. I'm not really interested in the VK scene, so that wasn't so interesting to me. I wished they would have also talked about some of the music that belongs in the Jpop category. For example, musical influences, big names of the past (Pizzicato 5, Pink Lady, Kome Kome Club), current popular bands (Orange Range being the big ones right now, then there's the collaboration fad that m-flo are a perfect example of), and then there's also the idol phenomenon to talk about (look up Okada Yukiko if you want something really interesting). I guess you have to focus on the extreme and unusual to pique people's interest, but I still think it's a bit misleading to just talk about such a small section... (If you want the really extreme you could also talk about the "noise" genre, which is pretty self-describing.) All in all, for the music and fashion talks, the speakers' own preferences really took the upper hand.

But the evening got more interesting. During the break I got to try my first pieces of sushi, which was quite an experience. I'm not really used to fish, but it was by no means a foul taste. I'd also like to try some other meals, like yakiniku, okonomiyaki, tenpura... After that a few brave volunteers, including me, tried their hands at origami, which was pretty tricky. It was only a few because the room couldn't hold any more. We made a flower from a napkin, a heart and something that approached the look of a frog.

After the break there was more talks, including one by a Japanese studying in Finland, in fact the only one studying in Vaasa. It wasn't that prepared, but entertaining nonetheless. To finish it off we watched an episode from a Japanese drama-series.

A very good evening, though it would have been fun to stay a bit longer...

あの人ともうちょっと話したいな、日本語を練習とか…

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A psychological experiment

You probably know about the method where a catheter is inserted into the penis in order to collect a sample from the bladder of a man.

Now imagine something a bit larger than a catheter used. Something the size of a small "massaging" equipment. (Though not for the purpose to collect a sample.) On a scale of 1-5, where would you rate your wish to see it? (With 1 being 'not at all'.)And for the second part, imagine that there is a video clip of that available on the world wide web. Does that change your wish to see it?

***
It's really strange how we seem to be attracted to gross stuff. In the same way traffic accidents can be fascinating even though they're horrible.