I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This

Posted on March 6th, 2012

Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 7:24 pm

So, after years of fighting it, I finally caved and added a Mac Mini to my veritable harem of computing devices. After all, a lot of musicians use Macs, and more annoyingly, use Logic Pro, which is Mac-specific audio software. However, for all the gabbing about just how easy life is on a Mac, I find myself fairly unimpressed with certain aspects of Mac life. For starters, I miss Windows 7’s snap-to-side function. Grabbing a program Window and quickly giving it half my screen worked wonderfully, especially when writing papers. I was going to finish an assignment up last night on the mac as test drive, but I was quickly off put and back on windows.

However, that’s a petty nitpick compared to the big ticket problem: I can’t update the iLife suite. It came free with the computer, but I even after logging in, clicking to accept the apps does nothing. Clicking update brings up a ‘NULL’ error. This is comically bad. After all, I was able to pull an update for the OS itself directly from Apple, so I don’t get why this is such a chase for the apps. I’ve sent off a support email, but for now, I feel unimpressed. Windows may lack a store entirely, but what’s included with the OS updates almost too easily, and I can easily get what’s not included through great sites like Ninite.

I am corresponding with Apple support right now, and I hope I get to follow this up with a retraction, but I hate that it came to this in the first place. Considering I managed to build a Windows 7 box from parts and get everything running and lovely on it in about a day last weekend, sitting around fighting for an app update is annoying at a minimum.

I mean, this is the kind of goofy trouble Apple made fun of Windows for, and in fact, I haven’t even had this kind of trouble with Linux since I started to used it on the original eeePC in 2007. That’s problematic.

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Kyubey is P. Diddy?

Posted on March 4th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 3:27 am

This time, the title mash-up is really just my random musing. As I sit here, waiting for my parents’ new computer to install Windows updates, I’m quite bored. However, fresh on my mind is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I have to review the first volume of the series for toonzone, and I was a bit perplexed by it initially. Yes, it’s expertly animated, and the story is very dark for a magical girl anime, but what was it trying to get at? What were the metaphors in play?

It was while waiting for these updates that the answer hit me. In the show, a mascot character named Kyubey offers Madoka a wish for anything she wants in exchange for being a magical girl as she has that talent latent in her. It seems like a sweet deal, except that being a magical girl comes means you have to risk your life to fight evil witches. Besides that, Madoka has a sweet life, so what more could she wish for? She likes the heroism associated with being a magical girl, but doesn’t want to upset her life for no reason. Yet, she knows she has potential to save people and make them happy by gaining this power. That’s attractive to her.

That interplay mirrors the exchange between record labels and artists. Labels, if they think you have something special, will offer you anything you want, but in exchange you the get the responsibility of celebrity Like the responsibility of being a magical girl, celebrity is a double edged sword. It comes with power, but that power can be self-destructive, and for all the people you may make happy because of it, you yourself may die from it’s exercise. It’s also a hard thing to seize if you have other talents. I’ve seen a few artists have a hard time balancing that wish against their existing connections and comforts.

Why did it click with me like that? Because I recalled an interview with Gorilla Zoe, a rapper on P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. He was asked about taking a deal with Bad Boy because Diddy had supposedly written some very sleazy contracts in the past. Zoe said it was a choice of that risk, or continuing to hustle in the streets. As was the case of some of the characters in the show, there were no existing comforts to lose. Accepting that contract, what ever risks that had, weren’t as bad as the other risks.

Then I realized why I’ve really had a hard time honing in on a specific field myself. Everything I do has certain existing comforts. Music is something that’s often effortless for me, and it’s always a pleasure. Writing, particularly in regards to analysis and critiques, is similarly fluid, though sometimes less engaging. Still, it yields benefits. Programming and software design take the most effort and planning, but still aren’t beyond my grasp, and there are immensely engaging once the ball is rolling. They’re all intrinsically fun. However, while writing professionally isn’t something I’ve come that close to, the other two passions continuously fight for my attention. The problem is, I don’t have the Gorilla Zoe choice. I have the Madoka choice. Trade a very functional life for a much riskier pursuit almost designed to end in tragedy.

And that’s when I realized Madoka is a very good anime. I’ll have to find a less gonzo way of posing that point in my review though.

Also, I’m getting tired of having the same question always on my mind.

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The Ice King Visits Old Home

Posted on February 29th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 11:10 am

The above title is an entirely unnecessary train wreck of references, one to Adventure Time and it’s character, the Ice King, and the other to Haibane Renmei, specifically a set of buildings in that show. The reasoning behind that verbal soup is that when I first moved to Burnaby, and was living on the SFU campus, the constantly foggy weather reminded me of Old Home. The world simply stopped after a certain distance as it did in the show. Also, today, I yet again drove up to campus to find it embraced in snow, which reminds of the Ice King. All in all though, that’s not what I needed today of all days.

Josh Montgomery (aka MC Gigahertz,) a good friend and wonderful musician, recently passed away at age 26. I’ve never known a man who brought more energy to the stage, and his style was absolutely authentic and entirely his own. Calling him unique seems shallow, but truthfully, his madcap style, which he named “Absurdcore,” was one of kind. He deftly balanced a commitment to producing quality music with sharp, witty lyrics against a commitment to be as strange as possible. He was committed to his craft as an artist. He was a pleasure to hang out with and see live, and I was looking forward to working with him in the future. Now, that will never come to pass, and it saddens me deeply to contemplate that.

Maybe that explains my non-sequitor title too. As I look out across the bleak, snow-frosted campus, I really don’t want to believe that Josh is gone. Twenty somethings are not meant to be writing mournful remembrances of their peers.  While I believe in an after-life, it doesn’t temper the fact that he’s no longer here. I thought he’d be here for a long time.

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A Tangent On Merchandising

Posted on February 24th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 4:40 pm

As many people are aware, no one makes money on selling music any more. Well, it’s not exactly like that, but it’s clear the money is more in ticket sales and merchandising. Even when you’re only a local Nerdcore rapper like me, the $5 to $10 per person made at the door is usually more money than the CDs sold that night. Besides ticket sales, the real money in t-shirts, posters and any other merch you can move. People like to show that they like your work, and will pay to advertise that fact and consider it a fashion accessory. That side of music as a business is something I’ve never really been good at taking on, but I think I only recently recognized why.

You see, even relative to Nerdcore, I think I don’t sell an image. Regardless of whether you’re talking about constantly touring rappers like MC Frontalot and Megaran, or people who currently focus more on local performances like Beefy and Death*Star, they put on a performance and have, to some extent, a stage persona. There is a show, a separation, a fourth wall. After my recent show in Seattle, a guy came up to me and told me my performance was Kaufmann-esque. Now, he meant that as a compliment and I take it as one – Andy Kaufmann was a genius. However, it means that I’m not holding any of the tricks back from the audience, or rather, there is a lack of separation between myself and them. The audience is part of the act to the extent any act exists in all. This was specifically evident in my last performance, where I went on stage after having fallen down half a flight of stairs. I plainly led the set off by saying I was in severe pain, I was likely going to screw up a song or two as such, and so told the audience to strap in and deal with it. There was not slightest element of a show or maintaining the fourth wall. Any persona I had that night boiled down to putting a sarcastic face around being racked with pain. Even the few staged bits, such as putting on blinking shutters shades, were in that context obviously a self-and-audience aware gimmick. Yet, people came up to me and said I put on a great show and that they liked my music.

I’m not sure if that presentation makes for a particularly good t-shirt.

Truthfully, the most congruent merchandise would probably be a shirt that said “Ultraklystron: I’m Selling You This Shirt Cause You Torrented My Discography,” or “Ultraklystron: A Rapper Maybe?.” There is no cool flipping of classic HipHop logos like MC Lars, nor a cool/cute comic book image of myself like MC Frontalot or Beefy, nor a witty tie into existing nerd properties like Death*Star, Klopfenpop and Megaran. Well, maybe I could do those things, but I’m fully self-aware of the act at hand – the commodification of myself – and I don’t like ignoring that. I don’t object to it either, but if I sold a shirt with me in anime style surrounded by anime girls, it’d probably say “Ultraklystron Doesn’t Live Anything Like This.” Maybe I could split the difference and just go with this.

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The Non-Edge

Posted on February 23rd, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 2:30 pm

So, as I recently tweeted, I was in a McDonalds the other day and heard a Skrillex song. Now, unlike a lot of other people, I don’t really take issue with Dubstep nor Brostep nor the influence they’ve exuded on other genres. It’s cool to hear HipHop pick up on it, and while it feels weird to have Dubstep breakdowns in Pop songs, it’s adding sonic diversity to the mainstream. Even in the underground music scene, the Brostep sound specifically has back flooded into other electronic genres like Dutch House and Moombahton. The resulting fusions, while perhaps being latched by listeners to the exclusion of the the source genres, do ultimately draw new ears into Electronic music as a whole. That said, even though I had a blast of time seeing Skrillex and Dillion Francis dj an afterparty last October, I know it was anything but subversive even at that point, at least amongst peers in my age group. It was good to be introduced to Moombahton and get reacquainted with EDM as whole since I’ve not been able to keep as in the loop in university, but it’s not like anyone I attend university with anyone didn’t already know what Dubstep was back then. In fact, I remember playing with Dubstep influences in my own remix work in 2009, and back then I was worried I was being a bit derivative.

Oddly enough, it’s probably the older genres in the Electronic music family tree that have maintained a greater distance from mainstream success. For example, little tinges of Drum n’ Bass have popped up in on an occaision, but even in Drum n’ Bass’ birthplace of the UK, there wasn’t a number one single from the genre until recently, and it’s essentially a pop song with a Dn’B underpinning. While mainstream pop basically all sounds like what being spun at Ibiza about decade ago, the more progressive forms of House, Trance and Techno are still largely a club and rave phenomenon. Even insanely catchy artists like Benny Benassi and Bingo Players don’t directly make it on to pop radio in North America inspite of being staples on BBC Radio One. I think Brostep might be the first pass at getting the broader public in North America into the wide world of Electronic music, and that’s a good thing.

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“Specialization Is For Insects” – Heinlein

Posted on February 19th, 2012

Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 4:12 am

Computer programming and music, the strands of art and science that simultaneously define my life, alternate between being in harmony and loggerheads with one another. This week has definitely been the latter.

On one hand, I not only have praise for my personal musical output, but for my creative work for other prominent individuals. To be blunt, I’m doing some production work for MC Lars, and he digs it. That’s praise is getting other parties interested in what I do as a musician. That’s good too, because I could use some pocket money and general attention. Doing production for other artists provides both.

At the same time though, I’m still enjoying fumbling my way around Racket for my AI class, while learning C# for a couple problems in my Multimedia class. I’m not a bad programmer, but I am a notorious procrastinator, and nothing gets me distracted like music. Add to that the general malaise that comes with recovering from a cold and a solid fall, and I’m surprised I’m on task at all. That likely speaks to how interesting I fine the programming work too; even the relatively dry AI class is pretty cool as the problems are quite thought provoking. Once I dig in, any track of time is lost. I become entranced by pondering how to attack and conquer the problem.

The multimedia class provides some excuse to fuse the two passions, but at the moment, I am balancing that fantastic Heinlein quote in the title again another very valid quote:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” – Abraham Lincoln.

I can’t wait to get these bigger projects off my mind. I can dilettante about with collabs here and there during university, but doing that, plus 3 good albums, plus homework, is tricky. Though, I probably spend too much time on the internet no matter how you cut it, and that’s the lamb most worth sacrificing. Though, it’s hyper-distracting nature makes the internet hardest to shut off.

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It Keeps Happening.

Posted on February 17th, 2012

Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 3:39 am

The previously discussed fan video has cracked over 1100 views in under two weeks. I clearly need to do stuff like that more often, by which I mean rap on very specific subjects in a rather relaxed, clear fashion over a fairly simple, but well-produced beat. Then, luck out, and have a fan devoted enough to cut a video for it.

I should stop trying to make a delicate mousse, and just make a good steak. Then pray that a restaurant critic walks in unprompted.

This is a bad plan, but only partially. I need to shoot music videos, even if that is just strings of images that relate to the lyrics. It’s clear that helps get my music out there in a multimedia age, and while I don’t to write for other people’s expectations, and I want those who can relate to my music to be able to find it and embrace it.

Metaphors and idle plans aside, I have a lot to clear off the plate before break is over. Well, really I only have to get an assignment done for my Artificial Intelligence class, but I’m still feeling out Racket. It’s a weird language. To make matters more interesting, I’m also going to be picking up C# for Multimedia class. Granted, that’s a pair project, and my fellow team member is so rad he has a game up on the XBox Live store. I hope I can keep up with him.

I also have some production work to take on. I have materials sitting from Rai Kamishiro and Death*Star, and my ears and sinuses are finally calm enough to take on a pair of headphones for a few hours. I may also being doing some production for some people other than myself, Rai and Nursehella, but it’s a test run thing. Hopefully, I hit the mark.

Grades come first, of course… (glances shiftily)

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I’ve Fallen Yet I Must Get Up

Posted on February 15th, 2012

Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 2:38 am

Last Saturday, I fell down half a flight of stairs as I excitedly exited my parents’ house to drive to my show. It lacked any simulation of grace. I even managed to smash the lip off of one of the steps. I am still pretty sore from that tumble, but ultimately I made it out to the show.

My father drove me to the venue, and for the first time ever, he saw me perform live at an actual venue. I think the volume of the soundsystem was off putting for him, but it was cool that he saw how people had come to see me. One person even researched me having seen the flyer, and another had remembered me from the frontalot forum, and remarked that my performance reminded him of Andy Kaufman. That’s pretty high praise, and a sign that turning my stage-presence-ruining pain into a joke worked. A promoter with the venue even said I should come to said venue’s (much busier) hiphop night, and that I should get in on its end of show freestyle. I’m glad my dad was their to see those interactions. There is something reassuring about being praised by fans in front of family members.

That said, it’s after Valentine’s Day, and I’m still a bit sore. Time for a couple of Advil, and some rest with a heating pad.

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Speaking of Nostalgia

Posted on February 6th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 5:48 pm

I have been sick with a roaring sinus infection for the past 5 or 6 days now. It totally sucks, because no matter how much rest I get, I seem to wake up feeling pretty out of it. It’s only viral right now as well, so there is no going to the doctors for antibiotics either. It’d do no good. The funny thing is, being sick is pretty much the same feeling whether I’m 8 or 28. Being layed is being layed up. Granted, there is a difference in being home sick and watching Nickelodeon and being home sick and having all of the world’s knowledge milliseconds away, but if either way I’m just lying down watching Hey Arnold!, the difference isn’t that great.

Though, these days, I’d rather be in school. I hate missing lectures, even when they are just the professor reading a pdf or powerpoint he posts online anyway. Being out for a day is one thing, but I just can’t enjoy the break how I used to. I mean, when you’re only in lecture 3 days a week anyway, I think I get a decent clip of leisure time in anyway except for when there is a big paper or project or test pending. When you’re this sick, I can’t even really get much work done on that anyway. Between feeling sick from the cold and feeling woozy from the cold meds, I can’t focus that well. I’m surprised at my coherence currently.

I’m taking a nap.

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Posted on February 5th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 2:45 am

I have a bit of a miserable head cold going. I shouldn’t be up at 2am as such, but yet I am. I’m listening to some songs from a turning point in my youth, and I’m wallowing in nostalgia. Right now I’m blasting Veruca Salt’s 25, I’m recalling the whole scene of listening to the album the songs from.

The CD/Cassette boombox that I’d specifically wanted for Christmas whirs gently while I listened blistering solos on cheap KOSS headphones. Lying in bed, I ponder what I’d have to do in class the next day. I’d probably blown off some homework, likely because it felt trivial, and the punishment for skipping more than 4 assignments seemed just as trivial. Specifically, being held in for the monthly bonus recess didn’t mean much when most of the class made a point to pick on me anyway. The separation wasn’t that hard on me, and only my very last teacher for the last of 6th grade inspired any achievement out of me.

Oddly though, it would be the music that listened to late into the night that bridged the gap between myself and the other students. I eventually brought my guitar to school, on which I had been dutifully learning various songs. I wasn’t more than half way through stumbling through “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or something like that before it was obvious to me that whatever the other students had thought of me for the past 2 years had evaporated. Any other weirdness I exuded was superseded by musical talent, what little there was at that point.

Thus, through out Junior High and High School, that was the icebreaker. If I didn’t bring my guitar on the first day of classes, it’d find it’s way to the campus eventually, and I’d play a few songs and make a few friends. Slowly but surely, I didn’t even need that. It was the stepping stone to creating my own confidence, because even with out a demonstration of skill, I knew I that I could do something cool. I learned to be assertive, friendly and outgoing, and I made a menagerie of radical friends because of it. I didn’t keep all of them, but they were all wonderful while I had them.

Truthfully, I miss the simple focus that came with listening to a CD. No browser 30 tabs open, no apps, just CD player, with at most 80 minutes of music, whirring gently. I suppose that’s any generation’s privilege – to miss the things they used to have, even with the imperfections that came with them. I’m sure some of the iPod generation will miss the single purpose and non-connected nature of the old mp3 players.

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