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Drink and Draw (13 Sep 2008 at 00:25)
Okay, the last ten (!) posts have all been about running or music, so I'm trying to get out of the music/running rut. Here's a thing: I don't want to be rutwise in my extramural behavior either, so I've been trying to do things that are a bit outside my comfort zone. There's a hipster bar Brillobox nearby in Lawrenceville that has a monthly "Drink and Draw" event, which from its name sounds like basically an ideal event, for me I mean, combining two great tastes that go great together—I even have on my vague list of themes for parties to host, a similar hypothetical event—although you gotta be careful because you can't be sure of what sense in which they mean "draw"; for example, WordNet reminds me that it might mean Draw Poker (not so bad) or a tie game (I prefer it to be settled decisively) or maybe even drawing blood, which will make me pass out especially with the drinking. And who knows what kind of drinking they're talking about; like maybe they mean drinking ethylenediamine and drawing blood. No thank you. It does turn out that the kind of drawing they had in mind is human figure drawing like they do in art school. This is I think literally the thing that I am worst at in visual art: realistic renderings of the human form, not because I have some weird misanthropic relationship with the body or lack of appreciation or even for lack of trying, just that it's really fucking hard and we're so good at recognizing people and their deformities that when the drawing is not great, it looks truly terrible. So I went and thought I'd sort of hang out in the shadows and use the occasion as kind of inspiration for whatever I felt like drawing, and maybe do a little halfhearted dabbling in drawing the actual model without anybody being able to see what I'm doing, which sounds good to me, like being in a classroom where they serve beer. 'Cept when I got there, there were only like 3 people in attendance, and so I felt obligated to be in the front row, and everybody could see what I was doing, and I felt obligated to draw the model who is clearly doing these stoic poses right in front of me. So I am inadvertently significantly more outside my comfort zone than I had intended, yikes. I had brought technical pens because that's my favorite for illustration, but requires a certain kind of confidence in stroke that I don't have for human figure drawing. So I tried for a while to do some realistic renderings, where this was the best I got
Drink and Draw: Stretch
and it was a good and interesting exercise, but kinda embarrassing. Towards the middle-end I was like jeez, I gotta do something that's not my worst thing or else I can't stand it. So then I started doing me-style illustrations with fonts and crap, and drew for example:
Drink and Draw: Let's Go!
Drink and Draw: Hat's On! To Farming
And I like those pretty okay. The art people did at least smile at these, and say positive coded messages like those are "cool" or "fun", which I deserve for bringing pens and then flouting the format. It was definitely worthwhile, though, and I'd do it again, especially with a friend or two in tow. Brillobox is so hipster that it's all-vegetarian now, by the way.

Now, to make sure this post is partly about music to keep up my streak: iTunes spankin' new "Genius" feature (which allegedly has some similarity metric and can create playlists of songs that are two great tastes that go great together) is absolutely fucking worthless. I want it to work, really really, because the main problem with listening to music in this post-9/11 world is that there's just so damn much good of it to be swimming in, so the idea of having a hot ass computer DJ spinning me some stuff that's just what I want and not yet tiresome is really appealing (last.fm is pretty good at this, actually, just not very convenient for the ways I want to listen to music). I always start with something hard when I'm testing out a feature like that, so, I was only slightly disappointed when it knew zippo about Kleenex Girl Wonder or Tom 7 Entertainment System, but then it didn't know Guided By Voices, The Bad Plus, Don Caballero, or like anything in my music collection until I got to shit that they wouldn't even play on All Songs Considered on account of them there songs being embarrassingly popular despite, you know, being called All Songs Considered. The foul language is I guess because it's especially annoying because Apple has this tendency to name and describe things with this condescending hyperbole (e.g. The G4 is the "world's first desktop supercomputer"). At least the Genius Bar at the Apple store can politely replace my iPod when it freezies.
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Chris (c-76-99-55-118.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 09.13.08 12:07:59
Now I feel bad because I'm going to ignore the art stuff which I do not understand and am vaguely intimidated by and comment only on the music stuff which is more in line with things I know about.

Anyway, you should check out amarok - it is way better than itunes. It has lots of nifty features in this thing called the "context tab" where it will automatically fetch lyrics, information about related songs/artists, the band's wikipedia page, etc, for convenient looking at while you are listening to music.

But, most importantly, it has a "dynamic playlist" called suggested songs where you populate a playlist with some stuff and then it automatically fetches other stuff from your collection that last.fm says is related, which sounds like approximately what you want. I have found it to be good but not great. Definitely convenient for when you are lazy.
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Chris (c-76-99-55-118.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 09.13.08 12:10:17
Oh, I just checked and I guess amarok is linux-only. I guess my excellent advice is useless to you.
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Chris (c-76-99-55-118.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 09.13.08 12:11:14
OK I checked again and it looks like the beta of the new version is also on mac and PC? I will stop posting now.
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chrisamaphone (cmu-295510.wv.cc.cmu.edu) – 09.13.08 13:06:55
i have hosted a Drawing Party before (of the make-marks-on-paper variety), but never in conjunction with drinking... it was still great fun and probably better that there were not 20 drunk people in my house with access to my art supplies.
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chrisamaphone (cmu-295510.wv.cc.cmu.edu) – 09.13.08 13:08:30
also being near jcreed is useful for making spontaneous drawing parties happen on placemats and things
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Tom 7 (h-67-100-47-227.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 09.13.08 14:36:38
Well invite me to the next drawing party, but I think you should allow drinkin'!
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Nels (c-71-236-67-163.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 09.13.08 14:38:44
Despite the fact that I can no draw, I like the idea of Crafts+Booze parties and events. Like remember that sock puppet party? That ruled.

In other news, ever been to Brillobox karaoke on Wednesday nights? It is totally fun and post-everything. I have a feeling that if you liked any karaoke, it would be their's.
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jcreed (ahost.einetwork.net) – 09.13.08 17:10:48
I think a drawing party that involved, e.g., D's levels of reasonable drinkin' would be pretty okay
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Tom 7 (h-67-100-47-227.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 09.13.08 17:28:29
Other Chris: Well, thing is, I really need my music player to be able to synchronize with my phone, which is now one of the major ways I listen to music. Otherwise, I would still be using winamp. iTunes is really crummy, IMO, one of the worst Apple apps. (Specifically, I think its model for how it has some hidden internal notion of what song is going to be played next, rather than how winamp and other players work, where there is a single main playlist that authoritatively determines the song that'll be next, is really annoying. And actually confusing, even to people who know how computers work. Particularly, when I'm listening to a song and didn't have the foresight to use On-The-Go playlist or party shuffle, then there's no way for me to queue up stuff to play next. I have to interrupt the music. How many times have I been at a party and someone accidentally double-clicks a song and there goes the dance party? Interrupting the music should never be the default behavior.) It's especially painfully slow on Windows. But working with my phone is important enough that I've basically switched over now.

By the way, I have to take back my "absolutely fucking worthless" comment about Genius. I think that when I first started using this morning it I had some transient network issues or otherwise today it has been learning more zeitgeist from all the people trying it, because now it at least knows about GBV and a couple other bands that it was giving me bingo results on before, so at least it is not useless. The results are now what I'd call mediocre; it seems to know the difference between my two major threads of music in my collection (being the electronic music and the indie-rock) although it gives Iron & Wine results for Aphex Twin songs, which is fine by me but hard to explain in terms of relative feel. I wish I could just tag my shit "instrumental" "electronica" "chill" and then make ad hoc queries, like it's 2004.

Why am I so bitter today? Must be the humidity.
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Tom 7 (h-67-100-47-227.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 09.13.08 17:33:50
Nels: My favorite karaoke so far is Bowleoke at Arsenal, because you can bowl when the karaoke is bad and it's lower pressure for the karaokeists. Brillobox post-eoke sounds pretty fun. Is that place no-smokey now that supposedly Pittsburgh has banned smoking except in exceptions? Because it was really smokey.
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Chris (c-76-99-55-118.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 09.13.08 18:48:09
Tom: understandable. Amarok does have support for lots of media devices, including ipods, but I think not iphones (at least, not yet). I use it with my little Samsung YP-U3, and it's convenient enough. I used to have a nice big 60GB ipod, but the disk was always getting fucked up and I had to have it repaired constantly. I can't wait for giant flash drives, because figuring out what 2GB of music I want to have with me all the time is a disaster. If apple is the first to bring out nice big solid state players, I might go back.

I totally agree on itunes retarded model for what music is playing. Though, I do appreciate its library organization and browsing features. When it came out for windows back in 2003 (I think?) it was the first or nearly the first to do that kind of stuff. Amarok does better with allowing you to browse the library while still viewing and manipulating the currently active playlist, and double clicking adds songs to the current playlist, as it should be.
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Adhesion (92.50.74.144) – 09.14.08 08:33:56
Re: tags and queries: you could actually do something similar in foobar, since one of the components has a search/filter box that is total overkill in the results it returns - apparently it searches all tag fields as well as properties of the file. Eg, if I search for 'loss' looking for Theme from Loss I get... everything in my music collection, I guess because everything's either lossy or lossless, and I get totally unrelated songs when I search for certain words in song titles because some random mp3s I have have the whole lyrics in the tags. I think one album even had a whole Amazon review in it, so that one comes up a lot. So if you went to the insane trouble of tagging everything with every genre/category it fit into, you could have something semi-smart.
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Tom 7 (h-67-100-130-149.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 09.14.08 10:00:33
Chris: Well, the iPod touch is 32gb, which is actually bigger than my music collection on the computer (but that's because I still use CDs for most albums). Flash memory is crazy cheap these days. I think you'll get your wish soon.

A: Hah, yeah, except for the fact that then it still returns overeager results. Personally I don't think it would be insane trouble to highlight all of the artists I know make instrumental music (mainly the electronic artists, but also say Dirty Three) and tag instrumental. This would be super useful for me when I'm working and I don't want words distracting me, I could randomize from the instrumental tag, or from highly-rated instrumental songs I haven't heard recently, etc. I think iTunes wants you to do this with playlists, which almost makes sense, except that you can't do (say) playlist intersections, and worst, you can't synchronize a playlist to your phone without getting all its contents, which means I'd have to have all of my instrumental music on my phone.
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