An interview with Freesound's Bram de Jong
Freesound is just a wonderful website. It's part of a project by Bram de Jong which aims to teach computers to recognize sounds. As an off-shoot of the research Bram has created a website in which he uses googlemaps to geo-tag some of the sounds in the large freesound database. Clicking on the tagged sounds is like sending your ears on world cruise. Knife sharpeners in China and Spain, musical cactii in Australia, lawn-mowers in the Netherlands the whole world is there for you to listen too.
This interview with Bram ran in a truncated form on the pods and blogs segment on BBC Radio Five Live. But this podcast has added "bonus features" including the sound of dolphins and the sound of my apartment...how exciting! It was recorded using Googletalk - all the pops, wheezes, distortions and other odd noises are the product of my ineptitude as a sound engineer and no reflection on the freesound archive.
Winslet and the mobarazzi
I take my morning break at the local Starbucks (and I might as well hit myself in the face with a shovel - their coffee is terrible). It's across the road from one of those LA restaurants filled with wannabee player types: Skinny blonds in tight jeans and diaphanous blouses accompanied by slick young men with over-waxed hair and over plucked eyebrows. It's a sushi restaurant, the personality of the food thereby perfectly complementing the personalities of the diners i.e. slimy.
Today was something of a first as the restaurant was being used as a location for a movie and, therefore, had real stars inside it. i.e. Kate Winslet. As Kate appeared two of my fellow coffee drinkers sprung into action...both were paparazzi photographers. I had a chance to ask one if the vast hordes snapping everything on their cell phones, were eating into his livelihood. Not really was the verdict..the quality of phone photos is so poor that unless it's the only shot of a celeb doing X or Y it's unlikely to be marketable. With that in mind I'll keep the camera at home for tomorrow's coffee-break... so much for joining the "mobarazzi"
HMS Surprise with Dolphins
A trip to San Diego provided an unexpected "surprise" (the ghost of Jack Aubrey must be my muse today) for this Patrick O'Brian fan. The star of Master and Commander, H.M.S Surprise is on display at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. A replica of an 18th Century frigate, she was first launched in 1970 as HMS Rose and used in sail training on the east coast of the United States. Director Peter Weir spotted her in Halifax and in suitably grand Hollywood fashion decided to make HMS Rose a star at the cost of her name... not the first would-be actress to lose her bloom after a trip to tinsel town (Capt.RN J.A collapses)
HMS Surprise (is a Yankee really allowed to call herself HMS I wonder) contains props from the film, fiberglass cannon, costumes, etc. The detail is wonderful, it might all be real. Often film sets look ticky, tacky close-up but everything in the ship might be on loan from a museum. It's a commitment to detail that reflects the great integrity of the movie which remains one of my all-time favourites.
Sadly by that time we had run out of batteries in the digital camera and on my mini-disk recorder. We had spent the day before photographing and recording dolphins (see pic) on a trip with Captain Dave's Dolphin Safari. I console myself that I'm unlikely to take a better shot of the Surprise than Peter Weir. Missing the opportunity to speak with one of the ship's curators was a shame though.
Directly behind H.M.S Surprise is a Soviet B-39 diesel attack submarine. To see it leering over the wheel of the wooden frigate creates a peculiar impression, as though you were looking down a temporal telescope. In an interesting footnote to the obesity crisis before entering the B-39 overweight visitors (and those who have difficulty bending) are encouraged to attempt passage through a mock circular door like those found on the sub. I wonder, for those who get stuck, if the curators rouse out powerful emetics and purgatives from Dr Maturin's supplies on Surprise? The blue pill and the black draught would be just the job to effect a reduction in the circumfrence of those of an Aubrine figure.
The Sun newspaper has included Tony Blair in a podcast - the first British Prime Minister to appear in one. This follows the Conservative leader David Cameron's podcast (download here) with the Telegraph (as pointed out by Guido Fawkes who also notes that Charles Kennedy then leader of the Liberal Democrats produced a podcast)
On stylistic grounds, I thought the model political mp3's were the early podcasts by Sen John Edwards While not breaking any major news, the casts had a pleasant indie feel. This may, indeed probably was, all carefully stage managed of course - but it left the listener with a fun illusion of being a "fly-on-the-wall" in the Edwards household.
Guides to Anonymous Blogging
The Spirit of America blog has released guides to anonymous blogging. This from the press release:
"A repressive regime trying to still free speech first goes after and shuts down independent print and broadcast media,” said Curt Hopkins, project director of Spirit of America’s Anonymous Blogging Campaign. “Once that is done, it turns its attentions to online news sites. As these outlets disappear, dissent migrates to blogs, which are increasing geometrically in number and are simple to set up and operate.” In past several years at least 30 people have been arrested, many of whom have been tortured, for criticizing their governments. This trend is likely to increase in the coming year.
That's 30 too many. But as they say on the website whatever you do a government who really wants to know who you are can find out.
Where's the Iditapod?
I'm deeply, deeply tempted to sign up for the Blogs'n'dogs seminars held in Banff, Canada if they run it again next year. I'm utterly in love with the idea of dog-sledding (is there a happier hound than a husky?) and blogging is OK I suppose. For those of you unconvinced about the merits of hooking yourselves up to canine V8 and charging off through the frozen north I can recommend Winterdance by Gary Paulsen. A hugely entertaining account of his attempt to run the Iditarod. Here's an excerpt. As you see the main problem for the novice isn't getting the dogs to start..it's getting them to stop.
In subsequent runs I left the yard on my face, my ass, my back, my belly. I dragged for a mile, two miles, three miles. I lost the team eight, ten times; walked twelve, seventeen, once forty-some miles looking for them. The rig broke every time we ran, torn to pieces, and I finally borrowed a welder and rebuilt the thing every night. Every farmer within forty miles of us knew about me, knew me as "that crazy bastard who can't hold his team". I once left the yard with wooden matches in my pocket and had them ignite as I was being dragged past the door of the house, giving me the semblance of a meteorite, screaming something about my balls being on fire at Ruth, who was laughing so hard she couldn't stand.
Read the whole thing, there are some authors who really earn their advances, this is one. Now that podcasting is so mainstream surely the time is right for an Iditapod? According to The Anchorage Daily news quite a few of last year's "mushers" were into their iPods.
"I tried (cassette) tapes," Ramstead said. "But by the time you got done messing around" with a bag of tapes, adjusting the headphones and getting ready to go, she said, "the batteries were dead". A friend made her iPod an insulated bag. She slips in a chemical hand-warmer to keep the batteries strong, she said. Ramstead is listening to Charles Frazier's best-seller "Cold Mountain," and several inspirational books, she said. "I had to be really careful" when selecting novels, she added. "I don't want to be listening to anything too spooky. There's enough scary stuff on the trail as it is."
I for one would be happy to produce an Iditerpod from the comfort of my own well insulated home (provided someone can supply us with something like this). Anyone interested drop me a line.. will work for Pedigree Chum ;)
2005 in Monkey News
The LA Weekly has a round-up of the year's news as it pertains to monkeys. I wonder if this sudden interest in simian samizdata was inspired by podcaster Ricky Gervais' longtime interest in monkey events. 2005 was indeed a busy year for our distant cousins. Research in Capuchin monkeys, for example, seems to confirm that prostitution is indeed the oldest profession (sic)
Capuchin monkeys learned to use money this year. Using a silver disk as currency that could be exchanged for food.... Researchers were stunned when a male offered a female a token for a quick roll in the hay and she accepted. Afterward, the female traded her new token for a tasty grape.
Oddly this article was spotted just as I discovered the joys of reading another monkey's coverage of events back home
U3 and Skype
A while back I spoke to Murdo of the excellent East Oakland Community College podcast using skype that he was running on a USB keychain memory. There is an industry standard USB system that allows programmes to run native on USB memory and it's called U3. I've been looking into this for various reasons and a quick glance over the U3 site shows that there are versions of Pamela(planned) and Skype that are U3 compliant. A very handy trick for the roving podcaster - load the U3 version of skype onto a USB memory, stick the memory into a machine at an internet cafe, a friend's house, at work and save yourself the bother of lugging a laptop around to record your podcasts.
One of the companies that produce U3 USB memory in Europe, Disgo, also makes a keychain USB mp3 player but an email to the company informed me that their mp3 players don't have U3. A shame because then one could record a Skype conversation in Pamela and listen to it away from the computer.
2005 In Blogs
I've put up an mp3 of the interview with Tim Worstall, Neil McIntosh, Suw Charman and Kevin Anderson. You can download the mp3 here. Neil and Tim Skyped into the programme. Neil was actually routed through my computer in Los Angeles then back down to London via my ISDN line. He doesn't sound half bad considering.
UPDATE: As well as looking back you may well want to look forward to next year and Alex Bellinger has an interesting list of predictions about the world of podcasting.
2005 in Podcasts and Blogs - plus a lobster
This was my New Year's Day. 0001PT 1/1/06 began unpromisingly with a long wait at the taxi rank in LAX, inhaling petrol fumes, trying unsuccessfully to find a comfortable way to sit on a soft suitcase. It was a depressing crawl towards midnight as the waiting line shrank slower than the waning year. But having arrived home, downed a welcome glass of whiskey and so to bed, new year's day itself went rather better - a risotto with a fine lobster, a lobster perfectly in the pink one might say, a splendid thing, glowing in its complicated armour. Before this one went under the hammer "her-in-doors" immortalized him in pencil (see pic). It's not every lobster that is sketched lying in state by a genuine Hollywood animator.
Much of New Year's night was spent, however, preparing for Monday's radio segment, chiefly cutting together a montage of the year in podcasts. To avoid all this effort effervescing into the ether as is the way of all radio I've included it in a podcast of the year along with a re-run of the interview with Tim Worstall about his book 2005 Blogged. There's more from Tim in the pods and blogs segment here (link valid until 9/1/06).
The intro music for the podcast is a new piece I've called "Reversal" (non-commercial use with attribution OK download here). A guitar track failed to go with the drums again (must buy a better sound-card so the sequencer runs without latency) but it survives in this piece as the carrier wave that shapes the vocoded "weird birds" and lead synth sounds.