Lessons In Japanese

Now that I own a license to Movable Type 3, my weblog is listed on the “Recently Updated” sidebar at MT HQ whenever I post a new entry. This always results in a burst of traffic from Japan. I’m assuming that it has to do with the fact that I have Japanese characters in the name of my weblog. And it might even possibly say something meaningful.

I’m hoping that someone can answer a few questions for me. Is my Japanese even remotely close to something real? There’s an American perception (justified or not) that when you translate Japanese into English you wind up with some unusual ways of saying things. I was going for a bit of that idea when I used Apple’s Sherlock program to translate “Monsters from the Id” into “Monster Big Bad Brain” and came up with 怪獣大悪脳. I brieflly mentioned this in my comment to this previous post.

I know that 怪獣 is Kaiju. A giant monster like Godzilla. How do you write out the other characters in a Roman alphabet? And how is it pronounced? If I’m totally off base on this, how would you say “Monsters from the Id” in Japanese?

That One Person Who Spoils It For Everybody

Since I was talking about how much people can suck earlier, I thought I would share this with you. Ever been in a situation with a group of people and one of them totally sucks? I mean where that person can make things so miserable that you’re not sure if you want to shoot them or yourself first? My friend Ben recently got back from a two month trip to Japan and Australia. He relates his misadventures with a fellow camper in Australia:

I swear that as soon as he got on the bus I sensed a weirdo. He was a
Canadian, not a bad thing, but right away I could tell he enjoyed
refering to his homeland as a pretty important place. Over the course of
the trip I learned that Australia and Canada are pretty much the same
country according to ole Del, and so is New Zealand and so is Japan and
so is Russia, on and on….

The next thing that became apparent was his instinctual desire to
consume anything that was even remotely associated with food in such a
gluttonous manner that it made me lose my appetite from almost the
beginning of the trip….

As if the food and inconsiderate sharing wasn’t enough, there is one
more aspect to Del that you readers at home must understand to get the
full Del experience. He stank like the bejeezus….

The only good thing actually about having Delano on the trip was his
ability to bring the rest of us together in our hatred…. So my new
theory is that we can send him to all the places where there is turmoil,
and both the warring sides, be it Palestine and Israel or Iraq and the
US, Northern Ireland and England or India and Pakistan, will bond and
unite over the hatred….

People Can Really Suck If They Put Their Mind To It

I got a call this morning as I was driving into work from Cameron. We are trying to finish up the sound for a scene that’s due in NY at noon on Monday. Since that’s 9am here, we basically need to get it all done tonight and load it up to the internet. (Just a side note, it was only a few years ago that this would not even be possible. We would have had to hire a courier to buy a plane ticket to NY and take a red-eye there.)

Cam is going to be a bit late coming in today because last night someone dumped an entire bucket of paint on his car! I cannot in begin to imagine what kind of person goes through life saying, “Hey, here’s an idea for someting fun…” Sure, when I was a kid we did our share of pranks—toilet papering a house or ding dong ditch—but nothing that did permanent damage. Annoying? Definitely. A pain in the ass? Probably. But throwing paint on a car is completely awful.

It’s not even like he’s driving a Hummer or something with no real value except to bleed gas and announce “Look what I can afford! Environment be damned!” He has a sporty little Jaguar. Definitely not a car that I would drive, or I should say that I would choose for myself. (Cam, one of the most generous people on the planet, let me drive his Jag for a month while my Honda was being fixed after an accident.)

Some people really suck.

Update: 9:40pm

Thankfully, the paint was water-based. Most of it is off Cameron’s car now. There’s still bits in the seams. Little spatterings here and there. Unfortunately his whole paint job on the car is scratched now since there was so much scrubbing for so long trying to get the paint off.

And in terms of the scene we’ve been cutting, we’re just about done. We’re meeting at the office at 7am to give it another once over, add in any little last minute bits, mix is down, and ship it off to NY.

Easier Text Entry And Formatting

I made couple of upgrades to my site which you may have noticed in my last post. I installed Daring Fireballs’ excellent Markdown and Smarty Pants plug-ins.

Markdown is the kind of Movable Type plug-in that I’ve been looking for for quite a while now. I think I’ve mentioned before that I use BBEdit to write my posts. And then I copy it into the MT web interface. In a little more detail, I actually type the entire document first. Then I check it for spelling errors and read it through for grammar problems. Only then do I go through and add in all the XHTML markup. This is what makes it look the way it should in the final presentation online with links to other webpages, code for embedded image files, other code for bold and italics. But once I add all this in, the once neat and clean document is damn near impossible to read.

Hence, Markdown. The basic idea is that you type up your document like you would in an old text-only email. You add simple things like *asterisks* around a word to turn it into an italicized word, asterisks. (Actually it adds the emphasis tags <em> and </em> since this has more to do with content than layout.) There are simple text-based “codes” for many of the most used XHTML tags, and best of all, it leaves you with a text document that you can easily read. (You can still add all the XHTML you want, don’t worry about that.)

The other plug-in, Smarty Pants, turns your ‘this’ into ‘that’, your “that” into “this”, your . . . into …, and your — into —. It gives you nice typographically correct text without any real effort.

A cool feature of these two plug-ins is that they work together and are implemented through the “Text Formatting” pull-down menu in the MT entry screen. With this you can turn it on or off for each individual post. Quite handy. I’m planning on going back and reformatting all my previous posts for Markdown, but that will take some time. However, I can start to get the benefit of Markdown right now without screwing up my other entries.

Great stuff.

Sci Fi And Fantasy Books To Read

This is a list of all the all the books in the Sci Fi Masterworks Series and the Fantasy Masterworks Series put out by the British publisher Gollancz. These books and stories are all considered to be “classics” by the Sci Fi and Fantasy community.

I am going to make the effort to read all of these books. (Though not necessarily these exact British pressing. They can be a bit more expensive.)

Books in bold I have finished reading. Books in italics I own but have not read, or have not finished reading.

I’ve got a lot of work to do!

SF Masterworks Series

  • “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman
  • “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson
  • “Cities In Flight” by James Blish
  • “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick
  • “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester
  • “Babel Seventeen” by Samuel R. Delany
  • “Lord Of Light” by Roger Zelazny
  • “The Fifth Head Of Cerberus” by Gene Wolfe
  • “Gateway” by Frederik Pohl
  • “The Rediscovery Of Man” by Cordwainer Smith
  • “Last And First Men” by Olaf Stapledon
  • “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart
  • “Martian Time-Slip” by Philip K. Dick
  • “The Demolished Man” by Alfred Bester
  • “Stand On Zanzibar” by John Brunner
  • “The Dispossessed” by Ursula Le Guin
  • “The Drowned World” by J.G. Ballard
  • “The Sirens Of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Emphyrio” by Jack Vance
  • “A Scanner Darkly” by Philip K. Dick
  • “Star Maker” by Olaf Stapledon
  • “Behold The Man” by Michael Moorcock
  • “The Book Of Skulls” by Robert Silverberg
  • “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells
  • “Flowers For Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
  • “Ubik” by Philip K. Dick
  • “Timescape” by Gregory Benford
  • “More Than Human” by Theodore Sturgeon
  • “Man Plus” by Frederik Pohl
  • “A Case Of Conscience” by James Blish
  • “The Centauri Device” by M. John Harrison
  • “Dr. Bloodmoney” by Philip K. Dick
  • “Non-Stop” by Brian Aldiss
  • “The Fountains Of Paradise” by Arthur C. Clarke
  • “Pavane” by Keith Roberts
  • “Now Wait For Last Year” by Philip K. Dick
  • “Nova” by Samuel R. Delany
  • “The First Men In The Moon” by H.G. Wells
  • “The City And The Stars” by Arthur C. Clarke
  • “Blood Music” by Greg Bear
  • “Jem” by Frederik Pohl
  • “Bring The Jubilee” by Ward Moore
  • “Valis” by Philip K. Dick
  • “The Lathe Of Heaven” by Ursula Le Guin
  • “The Complete Roderick” by John Sladek
  • “Flow, My Tears, The Policeman Said” by Philip K. Dick
  • “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells
  • “Grass” by Sheri S. Tepper
  • “A Fall Of Moondust” by Arthur C. Clarke
  • “Eon” by Greg Bear

Fantasy Masterworks Series

  • “The Book Of The New Sun: Shadow And Claw” by Gene Wolfe
  • “Time And The Gods Six Story Anthology” by Lord Dunsany
  • “The Worm Ouroboros” by E.R. Eddison
  • “Tales Of The Dying Earth” by Jack Vance
  • “Little, Big” by John Crowley
  • “The Chronicles Of Amber” by Roger Zelazny
  • “Viriconium” by M. John Harrison
  • “The Conan Chronicles: People Of The Black Circle” by Robert E. Howard
  • “The Land Of Laughs” by Jonathan Carroll
  • “The Complete Enchanter” by L. Sprague De Camp
  • “Lud-In-The-Mist” by Hope Mirrlees
  • “The Book Of The New Sun: Sword And Citadel” by Gene Wolfe
  • “Fevre Dream” by George R.R. Martin
  • “Beauty” by Sheri R. Tepper
  • “The King Of Elfland’s Daughter” by Lord Dunsany
  • “The Conan Chronicles: Hour Of The Dragon” by Robert E. Howard
  • “Elric” by Michael Moorcock
  • “The First Book Of Lankhmar” by Fritz Leiber
  • “The Riddle-Master’s Game” by Patricia A. McKillip
  • “Time And Again” by Jack Finney
  • “Mistress Of Mistresses” by E.R. Eddison
  • “Gloriana, Or The Unfulfill’d Queen” by Michael Moorcock
  • “The Well Of The Unicorn” by Fletcher Pratt
  • “The Second Book Of Lankhmar” by Fritz Leiber
  • “Voice Of Our Shadow” by Jonathan Carroll
  • “The Emperor Of Dreams: Best Fantasy Tales” by Clark Ashton Smith
  • “Lyonesse: Suldrun’s Garden” by Jack Vance
  • “Peace” by Gene Wolfe
  • “The Dragon Waiting: A Mague Of History” by John M. Ford
  • “Corum: The Prince In The Scarlet Robe” by Michael Moorcock
  • “Black Gods And Scarlet Dreams” by C.L. Moore
  • “The Broken Sword” by Poul Anderson
  • “The House On The Border Land And Other Stories” by William Hope Hodgson
  • “The Drawing Of The Dark” by Tim Powers
  • “Lyonesse: Green Pearl And Madouc” by Jack Vance
  • “The History Of The Runestaff” by Michael Moorcock
  • “A Voyage To Arcturus” by David Lindsay
  • “Three Hearts And Three Lions” by Poul Anderson
  • “The Mabinogion” by Evageline Walton
  • “Darker Than You Think: And Other Novels” by Jack Williamson
  • “The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Eldritch Horrors” by H.P. Lovecraft

Worldizing Sound With Altiverb

Recently we’ve been working on new movie and using Altiverb to place sound effects within their environment. What a great piece of software! There’s a new version 4 that’s recently come out.

Instead of grabbing all those sliders like Wet / Dry, Decay, and Pre-Delay and trying to find settings that sound like a real place, Altiverb actually takes the sonic characteristics of an environment and applies it to the sound. Using a starter pistol or a tone sweep to make some noise, and recording the sound inside a particular place like a church, a car, or your bedroom with one, two or four microphones, Altiverb will analyze that sound and make a church, car, or bedroom setting. This is called an Impulse Response. Then when you want to take a recording of something like someone singing and make it sound like it was done in the church, you selecting the “church” setting. Easy and very, very cool.

Altiverb ships with a lot of pre-set environments like various churches, cathedrals, music studios, auditoriums, and a whole slew of home and office places. You can download more from their website. And I’ve found a few other websites with other pre-sets that can be downloaded:

Altiverb.DAW-Mac.com

Fokke van Saane’s Altiverb Impulse Responses

And of course you can go and record your own!

Goodbye Mr. Quine

I didn’t see this one from Reuters:

Guitarist Robert Quine, one of punk rock’s most daring soloists, was found dead Saturday in his New York apartment. He was 61.

That’s really a shame. Robert used to hang out with the Velvet Underground back in the day. In fact a couple years ago, Polydor released a collection of unofficially official live recordings that he did of them “Bootleg Series, Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes”. The quality is pretty much no-fi but it does really capture the raw power of VU.

Anyone who enjoys punk and hasn’t taken a look at VU really needs to. There’s a story about their first album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico”: that it only sold 1000 copies initially but everyone who bought one of those copies went out a formed their own band.

Quine understood that. He was one of the founding members of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Their 1977 debut album, “Blank Generation” is one of the truly great punk rock albums.

Robert went on to work with many excellent artists including Lou Reed, Lydia Lunch, Brian Eno, Material, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits, Matthew Sweet, and even John Zorn.

He will be missed.

Automatically Sending Trackback Pings To Your Own Posts

If you’re a repeat visitor to this website, you might have noticed that I have a few running threads. I make use of the Categories to “file away” posts in an appropriate area but I also link back to previous posts when appropriate and I have started sending Trackback pings to those posts so that people starting from the earlier post can continue the topic. A very recent example has been my look at various RSS newsfeed aggregators. (Well, to actually focus mostly on PulpFiction.) Even though I have Movable Type set to automatically ping posts that I link to on other servers, tt would not do it on my own. I would have to manually enter each of them.

No longer. Here’s how you turn on automatic trackback pinging to your own posts on your own server:

In the directory that you installed Movable Type on your webserver, open the file lib/MT/Entry.pm in a text editor. Find the line:

next if $url =~ /^$archive_url/;

and comment it out. It should look like this:

# next if $url =~ /^$archive_url/;

Save the file and you’re done. Now whenever you add a link to a previous post on your own website, it will “auto-discover” the post (as they call it in the preferences) and send a trackback ping.

A huge “Thank You!” goes out to Phil Ringnalda for answering this question for me in the Movable Type Support Forums.

Another Problem With PulpFiction

Ok, maybe I’m not using the program the way it’s supposed to be used. Here’s what I’m doing. I’ve subscribed to all the feeds I want. PulpFiction automatically checks for new posts every 30 minutes. They are downloaded to the Inbox on my machine. I read the posts and the ones I don’t want to keep, I delete by hitting the delete key. For some reason though, I those same posts that I’ve read and deleted are sometimes re-downloaded a few hours or even a day later. It’s very strange. It’s not the end of the world. But it’s a bit annoying.

More On RSS Feeds

I’ve been using PulpFiction Lite for several days now to keep up with the websites I read a lot and it’s working out great. Once I got over the initial onslaught of hundreds and hundreds of posts to slog through it’s fairly easy to stay up to date. One super important thing for people to do though: do not subscribe to more sites than you can handle. That was my initial problem. I added all the sites I read regularly to the ones that were already in the program and I got so overwhelmed so quickly that I almost gave up.

The best way to go about doing this is to only add the sites you normally read with your web browser and maybe one or two new ones. Try that out for several days and get used to it. If you can keep up with the volume of posts and want to add more, only then add a few more.

So I’m happy. I’m reading all the websites I read previously plus a few more and it’s pretty easy. The new posts come directly to me. No more loading and reloading of websites to see if there’s something new.

I have one big problem with PulpFiction Lite right now though. When it checks for a new posts in a feed–I have it set to check automatically every half-hour–it scrolls the preview panel where you read the post to the top. This is a big pain in the butt. Some RSS feeds like MacMinute only include a few words of the post, you have to click the link to really read it. Others like anything from Livejournal.com, include the full post. So I usually just read it right there in the preview window. Since feeds are checked every half-hour from the time they were last checked, if you leave PulpFiction running for a while, you might end up checking feeds every few minutes. This is a lot of interruptions when you’re reading a long post.