October 2005

Tonight I went to see Kurt Masur conduct Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony at Davies Hall. I’ve heard this symphony several times (I realized this while hearing it tonight), but never paid much attention to it. However, tonight was an awakening of sorts. The SF Symphony was in top form, extremely tight, and the effect was one of the best performances (we say performances, not shows, when we go to the symphony, don’t ya know) I’ve seen at Davies Hall.

First of all, Tchaikovskys 5th is a wonderful and complex piece. From sweeping string movements to french horn solos to frenetic crescendos, this is a composition that will rock you. It rocked the blue hair crowd. The mosh pit was out of my league.

And add to that, the already exceptional SF Symphony took to this stuff like a cat to a mouse. They attacked it, missed nothing, and with visiting conductor Kurt Masur at the healm, seemed near perfect. It was really something.

The opening piece, by a Russian (Tatarian?) composer named Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina called Offertorium, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was an oddly interesting composition. I’ve never heard sounds like that coming from an orchestra, and there were wonderful melodies and striking highs to the music. Overall, very interesting. The piece was originally written for the soloist, Gidon Kremer, who performed with the SF Symphony tonight. It was the first time the piece was performed by the SF Symphony. Nice work!

As highbrow as attending the symphony is perceived to be, I really enjoy the SF Symphony. The crowd is always interesting, the music always great, and the musicians are always the first out the door — I marvel at how they can pack up their instruments, change clothes and be out the door before the crowd. I always see them making their way home with instrument in tow as I work my way over to Hayes Valley for a nightcap. Tonight was the first time I needed to resist the urge to shake their hands and say “Nice Work!” Not because I haven’t felt that way before, but just because I felt like they really nailed it tonight, and on such a wonderful piece of music.

Tonight Vijay and I went to check out The Go! Team at Slim’s. Their show was outstanding, just like it was last time at Bimbo’s. They had a new member, which put the total number of players on stage at 6. They are so much fun to watch, as they have to run between instruments between and in the middle of songs to produce the necessary sounds. It’s like a game of musical chairs between each song as the members scramble to get to the right place. Plus, they use recorders in their music, which as my grade school music teacher would agree, are the most bitchinest woodwinds on the planet (he might not use that phrase…). The Go! Team makes such awesome, high energy music. I love them.

They had a nice 3 peice called The Grates from Brisbane, Australia opening for them. I had never heard of them, but they rocked. They lack a bass player, but I didn’t miss the low-end due to the guitar player’s setup, and I was too distracted by the lovely Patience who dances like crazy while she’s singing. When they came on stage, she seemed a little out of place. She was wearing a nice sundress, while the other members were rocking the standard grunge/indie gear. But as soon as she got on the microphone, it all made sense. She has a great voice, an awesome lyrical cadence, and her stage presence (and that of the drummer) is outstanding.

All in all, The Go! Team is one of my favorite bands to see live. They (and/or their label) have an odd sense of marketing — their first album came out in late 2004, but despite widespread acclaim in the US, they didn’t tour here until Summer 2005. They didn’t release their album in the US until July 2005. And they announced during tonight’s show that they will have a single from that 2004 album (Thunder, Lightening, Strike!), coming out in the UK this Winter. Who releases a single from an album that came out nearly 2 years ago? But whatever, their style works. From here, they head North and then points east. Here is their tour schedule. Check them out if you want to rock out for an hour or so.

What a pain in the ass it was trying to install the latest iTunes/Quicktime on my PC. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my latest generation iPod, so I decided to get ready by installing the latest iTunes.

Turns out that some configurations of Win2000 and WinXP don’t want to play nice with the iTunes installer (which uses InstallShield). I followed all of the suggested steps here, including cleaning out the TEMP directory, making sure the settings on various folders were correct, and installing the latest InstallShield script (version 11). Still couldn’t get the damn thing to install. I then tried uninstalling iTunes and Quicktime. Nothing. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing. In the process of uninstalling and deleting things, I managed to render my OS garbage. I had to reinstall the OS. Fortunately I store my data on a seperate disk, so nothing of value (except my Sunday) was lost.

The good news is once I reinstalled the OS, updated all of the patches (25 security patches for Windows!) and installed SP4, I was finally able to download and install iTunes 6. My new iPod had better be worth it!

Last night, I went to see Calexico and Iron & Wine at the Warfield. I guess this tour is in support of their new collaborative album, in the reins. They had an interesting lineup: Some unfunny and obnoxious comedian, followed by Calexico, followed again by the “comedian”, followed by Iron & Wine, and finally the whole crew (minus the comic).

Overall, the show was pretty good. Calexico, whom I hadn’t heard before, was really awesome. They had 6 members onstage, and were really a joy to watch and listen to. Three of their members played multiple instruments. Two horn players (trumpets) also played xylophones, guitar and vocals. The slide guitar player also played regular guitar. This variation allows for a broad spectrum of intensity and texture in the music, and I found it inspiring. In fact, most bands that can get pull off the live multiple instruments per member thing, like the go! team and lake trout, are always fun to see and hear.

Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) was not as great as he usually is. The last time I saw him was at the Great American Music Hall last year. He really blew me away then. Most of his songs were variations on his songs from The Creek Drank The Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days and assorted covers (he did New Order’s Love Vigilantes, which was really good). This time around, he was not alone, he was mostly amplified, and he had a drummer and a lady singer in tow. He played few old songs, which is okay, but he lacked the softness that makes him so appealing. He transformed from this mellow folk singer to a wannabe rockstar, and it seemed to me contrived and kind of unfortunate.

With that said, the Calexico/Iron & Wine set was awesome. Their styles really compliment one another, and the effect of so many people on stage, not producing an overpowering sound, but rather a very nuanced, varied sound was really cool. Goes to show you what can happen when many talented people take a back seat to the music. Let the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. And lose the comedian…

Me and the infamous Jeannie Yang will be spinning records, drinking wine and enjoying the company of friends at the 222 Club this Saturday, October 15th from 7-9pm.

Stop on by and say hi!

I’ve been playing around a bit with audioPod, which is a Java-based plug-in for the iPod which captures what you’ve been listening to on the iPod and publishes it up to your (or in my case, my) last.fm playlist thingy.

The cool part: It’s Java-based, which means you can write iPod plug-ins in Java. Okay, it’s not really a plug-in for iPod. The way it works is you download the java app to your PC (Windows only), and when you connect your iPod, it queries the iTunesDB (which resides on the PC and is updated when you connect the iPod), parses the content and then loads it up to last.fm.

When I was working on my final project last spring, my project partners and I were curious about building something similar for MP3 players. Since we were interested in capturing what our users were listening to, we reasoned that a major portion of that was going to come from their portable players. But we were also building an MP3 player (like a replacement for iTunes — on steroids), we didn’t want to spend time working on also building apps for portable devices — even if it was an app like this that resides on the PC. And we weren’t even sure such an application was feasible. audioPod proves that it is.

And now the bad part: You can’t have iTunes and audioPod running at the same time, you can’t have iTunes launch when your iPod is first connected to the machine, and the process of getting the songs off the iPod and up to last.fm is somewhat laborious. Launch the app, select the songs, post them, shut down the app, and then launch iTunes. That’s a lot of work for most users.

This app also doesn’t update the “Now Playing” XML file created by Now Playing, which means what I listened to on my iPod throughout the day doesn’t get posted to my blog. But whatev, I guess I can code that up if it’s so important.

I’m heading to a wedding in Texas for the weekend. Before the wedding my sister and I are going to Open House 2005 in Marfa. Open House is an art festival held every year that celebrates contemporary art. It was started by Donald Judd in 1987 and has grown to be an international draw. Yo La Tengo performs during the weekend, but we’ll miss that.

I’m officially 33 years old today. I’ve been told that 33 is a good year, because it’s how old Jesus Christ was when he was crucified. Yikes. That seems like a bad thing. Just to be safe, I’m not wearing any sandals this year. I don’t see any Romans outside with nails or crosses, so things are going pretty good so far. I can say that 33 feels pretty good. I’ll keep you updated…

Ed Felton has a nice post about eDonkey CEO Sam Yagan’s testimony before the senate judiciary commitee during a hearing on “Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World “.

The title of his entry “eDonkey Seeks Record Industry Deal” puts another spin (albeit perhaps inadvertently) on the company’s agenda. It differs significantly from the connotation offered up by Mp3NewsWire, which was one of several sources that quoted Yagan as saying that eDonkey was throwing in the towel after receiving a C & D letter from RIAA. This quote must have come from his verbal testimony, as it appears nowhere in his written testimony.

It may be that the company sees no other option but to reach some kind of agreement with the record industry. Or it may be that the Grokster decision left enough breathing room for both sides that this kind of a deal becomes appealing to both eDonkey and the RIAA. eDonkey may be realizing that their future under an active inducement rule is nebulous at best, and the RIAA may (or at least should) realize that the Supreme Court declined to rule on their argument (that Grokster wasn’t shielded by the SNIU ruling in Sony), and the present legal environment will not give them a cheap, clear solution to their P2P problem.

In other words, both sides in this particular legal struggle seem to be coming to terms with the reality of the market: you can’t stop file-sharing, and nor should you. The RIAA probably wants eDonkey’s traffic. eDonkey probably wants the RIAA’s money. Ahhh, capitalism.

To be sure, the RIAA is throwing around its weight more than it should. They have spun the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Grokster as an unequivicol victory for their stance against P2P companies, and they seem to be intent on bullying said companies into complying with their demands. But at the same time I’m not convinced by Yagan’s claim that they have nothing to hide and are thus capitulating because they can’t afford a lawsuit. I think a more accurate statement would be that they can’t risk a lawsuit under the current Supreme Court active inducement rule.

Since the Supremes gave only skance guidance regarding what can be considered “active inducement,” I think most P2P companies are reasonabely concerned that a trial may in fact reveal evidence of “active inducement.” These companies have basically lost the shield of summary judgement, and have to consider that their internal documents, emails, advertising campaigns, etc. may be supoeonaed and subject to an analysis of active inducement. In that sense, the Grokster decision definitely made for a murky legal environment for technology companies.

While it is troubling that companies are already folding under the new active inducement rule, I’m not convinced that the Grokster ruling will ultimately have a significant effect on technology, or even on P2P networks specifically. eDonkey’s recent decision, whether it is pure capitulation, opportunism, or a combination thereof, has virtually no effect on the eDonkey/Overnet network. As Nicolas Christin recently mentioned in an email conversation about this, “[eDonkey’s] decision has virtually no impact on the content available, as 1) they are not a content provider, and 2) off-shore, open-source alternatives are readily usable and already represent a dominant share of the
client market on the eDonkey/Overnet network.” Indeed, eMule has that share.

So, eDonkey may have sold out or given up or whatever, but the P2P revolution continues, with or without the recording industry’s consent.

I just added a recently played list to my sidebar, so I can be cool like Ryan and Joe. I chose to use Brandon Fuller’s Now Playing plug-in for iTunes. It’s badass. It creates an XML file of your recently played tracks, which it then can FTP to wherever you specify. Then, you just parse the file and post the results. It also uses the Amazon Web Services (AWS) API to retrieve album art, ASINs, and other useful information.

I also provide a link to buy the album from Amazon. When this link is used, Orpheus gets some money.

This is an awesome feature for blogs. It’s one of the main reasons I decided to start a blog in the first place. Well, that and wasting copious amounts of time.

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