Bits about software development, and about some other forms of art too...

Monday, November 3, 2008

A (not so) cold winter night

Friday evening was indeed a cold winter night in Paris. So much so that I really thought over the idea to go the concert of I'm From Barcelona. Sure, I more than enjoyed last year's gig and I still expected some fun. But I had doubts.

First of all, I felt that a great part of the magic I had felt then came from a surprise effect that could not possibly occur again : I knew what to expect now. And that sounded like a good recipe for disappointment to me.

Furthermore, I had just listened to their last album a few times in the preceding week, and I had found it a bit more melancholic, darker than the first one (as the cover suggests correctly). I felt the touch was gone as all their communicative energy came through the joyfulness of their songs. How could they drive the audience nuts again with those songs ?

Then there was the 45 minutes queuing at the entrance of the concert hall in the freezing cold (I like to come early to get a good spot).

Then a nice french group (Revolver) played in the first part. Nice vocal harmonies, with two guitars and a cello, no drummer. Very nice, but not warming at all. Meanwhile, someone in the audience had brought his own balloons and started to inflate them.

Then the long awaited band began its show. Parts of the audience tried to jump, clap and scream on the first songs but there was something wrong about it. It was all fake, people desperately wanting to be happy but not being really. As feared, the new songs did not fit...

And then, Emanuel picked up a yellow balloon that had somehow landed on the stage :

BOUM !!! Can you spot the moment when everybody starts being crazy ? My God, this concert was even better than the first one ! It went on like this for more than an hour, with more balloons, more confetti, more shouts and more joy. And it ended a cappella, in the streets of Paris, in a winter night that did not feel so cold after all.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Culture Mix

As my friends know perhaps too well, I have the greatest difficulties to stand traditional music. No prejudice here : take any album of Raï, música de cobla, Kulning or Kan ha diskan and you can get me bored in no time. To death. That is only if I'm lucky, of course, because everyone is at the mercy of a sneaky pipe playing attack (I know I have been). Thus the rather famous English definition of a Scottish gentleman :

A man who knows how to play the pipes, and does not.

And I won't even link to Sardinian polyphonies. I am a true son of globalized music, one raised with The Beatles (don't thank me for this link) and now a humble worshiper of Róisín Murphy (but you already knew about this, didn't you ?).

But when I heard (the sweet sweet) Berry sing with Youss Banda last week, I was reminded of how great and hypnotic a simple mixture of traditional and pop music can be :

I think I have a photo somewhere where I can be seen playing the guitar in the Turkish country (it must have been near Istanbul), along with a local shepherd playing a flute. It was more than 15 years ago, but I remember vividly playing a theme based on We Got Married on which he had a great improvisation session. Music was our common language (his English was as good as my Turkish), even though our styles where so different. I had a similar experience in Bruxelles a couple of years ago with North-African immigrants playing the drums in the street. We had a great culture mix jam session that could have lasted for hours, had the police not interrupted us (it was 7am, and music seems to be considered as noise at this time of day).

So I gathered a playlist of my favorite mixed culture songs, and I realized they could easily fit in a playlist of my favorite songs :

And if you listen carefully, I think you can even hear pipes in some of them.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Long time, no see...

Like Jeff Atwood, I have have been carrying a USB memory stick for some time now, except that I started at only 32MB ! My current stick can hold 4GB now. Here is a small excerpt of my limited experience :

  • U3 was a very bad idea. No, I get this back : it was a very good idea, just very badly implemented. My current choice is the much more open PortableApps, which has the great advantage of making me think that I am the one in charge.
  • Hardware must be solid as a rock. For a key to last more than a few months in my pockets, this is an absolute must. I wasted too many too fragile memory sticks already.
  • Beware of performance. There are some real differences out there so get the facts before you buy.

But, speaking of performance, I found out the hard way that a single figure for read/write speed was not enough. I use my memory stick, among other things, to store my Mozilla (Firefox+Thunderbird) profiles, so that I can keep my history, my bookmarks and my passwords wherever I go. When my Intuix Smart Drive S300 U3 USB 2.0 - 2 Go decided to give up with life (the plastic case literally crumbled), I decided to buy another stick with the same chip inside, having been satisfied of the reliability and performance of the previous one.

So, I decided for the EMTEC Flash Drive S520 ReadyBoost - 4 Go. But all of a sudden, my Internet experience slowed to a crawl. Performance for the usual transfer of files was excellent, but Thunderbird took an eternity to launch and retrieve my mail. I then download Flash Memory Toolkit, a benchmark utility, to see what was really happening. Are are the results :

Before : Intuix Smart Drive S300
After : EMTEC Flash Drive S520

See ? The old stick was consistent in writing for all file sizes. The new one was much worse for small ones, and much better for large ones. No wonder that writing cookies took so long ! So when you get the facts for your prospective memory stick, try to get all of them and check if they fit your usage.

So I got the facts much more carefully, and I eventually opted for a OCZ Rally 2 Turbo - 4Go. Like Jeff (size does not matter. Or does it ?). And I browsed happily ever after.

Now : OCZ Rally 2 Turbo


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Treat Me Like A Woman

I learned today that Lesley Douglas, the head of popular music at the BBC, suggested that (full article here) :

men "tend to be more interested in the intellectual side of music", while their female counterparts' relationship with the art form is one rooted in emotion.

That may be just too stereotypical, a common gender prejudice. But as far as I know, there might as well be something relevant about this point of view. In which case I would have to admit that I am a woman, though I bet (and certainly hope) most of you would not find out at first sight (except perhaps for my long hair and my very occasional wearing of high heel shoes). And if so, you you would not guess as well that I am black, due to my strong preference for low frequencies (also known as "bass").

I can live with that. What I find amazing is that some people can be interested in the "intellectual side of music". Music is emotion. The "intellectual side of music" is not music ; it is something that can be of some help when joining a discussion between erudite scholars (no harm intended, I like to join those sometimes).

Close your eyes, open your heart : this is where music starts. You are invited to open your mouth, provided it is not to discuss anything but to produce some kind of harmonious sound...


Friday, February 1, 2008


Read this :

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I find the very first point debatable. And so do others. We are animals, after all. I would rather say that our species is the only one who likes (needs ?) to express a consciousness of its (alleged) uniqueness. But this is not my point. The point is that the more I read it, the more I agree with the idea expressed in this paragraph.

My first reaction was one of skepticism, though : I thought about The Beatles. They seemed like the perfect counter example : no doubt that Ringo Starr had very little implication in the creative process, and that George Harrison was left to his own creation, but what about the association ? So many great songs are bearing both their names that anyone can be startled at the realization of how many of them one knows. But having read a great deal about it, I then remembered how much of a front the partnership was. Even in the good, early times, as you can read here :

Most of the songs they wrote during this time were mainly started or conceived by one of the pair, with the other adding in a line or verse, completing the song, or helping out when inspiration was lost.

In other words, they used their collaboration as a means to achieve what their sparks of creativity had started. In their lonely minds. Afterwards, when their artistic relationship evolved from collaboration to competition, the loneliness of their creative process was even more (if possible) extreme. And this was the period considered as many (including me) as the climax of their creativity.

is a great thing, the means of the greatest achievements. It is about development, building, construction. It just has nothing to do with creation.

And this I believe : that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for : the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against : any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden


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