Monday, June 25, 2007


Most of you probably haven't heard of Splashdown. My sister discovered them back in the 90's so I've been listening to them for about 8 years now. Sadly, difficulties with their first major label resulted in there being no major label releases of material as well as the demise of the band itself.

Splashdown independently released three+ albums worth of stuff before this happened and a fourth album worth of material (with a lot of remixes - one by Rhys Fulber!) after. The songs were never signed over and rather than have them moulder on some shelf, the band has given permission for their songs to be freely downloaded online.

This is the point of my post.
You can download their entire discography HERE. That's roughly 50 songs.

It's hard to describe them. Splashdown is a 3-piece with female vocalist. Their music is described as a unique mix of electronica, rock, jazz, with middle-eastern influences. Melissa Kaplan's vocals are kind of jazzy with the ability to flit from note to note with middle-eastern dexterity. The bass is dynamic and at times jazzy. Crunchy percussion/keyboards can be Björk-esque. I can't think of anyone they really sound like.

If I have you, I recommend listening to these songs for a taste:

"Halfworld" from the Halfworld EP
"Charming Spell" from the Redshift EP
"Mayan Pilot", "Dig" are both more jazzy, from Blueshift
"Elvis Sunday", "Games You Play" are more pop-rock from Blueshift
"Waterbead" from Blueshift & "Beguiled Mark II" from the Halfworld EP are both crunchy electronica/rock
"Karma Slave" - good aggressive, grungy rock sound
"Asia at Odd Hours" from Possibilities is more electronica pop, more polished

There are multiples of several of the songs - they're all different versions. Like, I prefer the original "Ironspy" (Halflife) to the newer one (Blueshift) because it has more grit (very subtle). Also, "Beguiled" was redone as a gutsy, dark song that is mostly percussive in "Beguiled Mark ii" - the revision being much much better.

Anyway - it's sad to see such an awesome band's music left adrift on the net. It's really solid stuff and it is beyond many of their fans that they were not signed earlier in their career. But at the time there wasn't anyone else really like them that I could think of and the music industry has been playing it really safe since the mid 90's and arguably earlier.

If you like strong female vocals with a slight jazz edge, electronic crunch, dynamic and interesting bass lines driving everything, you might like Splashdown. Some of their songs like "Presumed Lost", "I Understand", and "Lost Frontier" sound like they could of been on the radio - they have that air of familiarity, so at first glance they seem radio-friendly but you start checking out the rest of their stuff and you see they're really kind of unique. IMHO. ;)

And hell, it's FREE. :D

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Fountain [film]

My sister and I watched The Fountain last night.

I won't say what it's about exactly because that ruins the mystique and kind of sounds cheap when its described when in fact it is a deeply multilayered, beautiful film. The symbolism is present in every frame - the lighting, the colors, the composition of each frame, the storyline itself. It unfolds and unfolds. Oh, and I really liked the music - though if I had the soundtrack, I'd probably cry every time I heard it. ;)

Hugh Jackman was fantastic in this film - his emotions were not over the top at all, they were subtle, deep, heartfelt, and real.

The effects were fantastic - if you watch the DVD extras you find out that there's hardly *any* CGI in the film! All the cool outer space nebula textures and things were actually all macro-photography of chemical reactions in petri dishes - so all looks and moves in a natural, organic way. The flower sprouting part was mostly done with physical props and effects - the tree-climb was actually done. It all just made everything that much more realistic so that you could sink into the film.

I warn you that it is a very very sad film - make sure you have tissues on hand. At the same time, though, it's kind of positive and just so beautiful that I didn't come away too overwhelmed or sad. "Beautiful" is the key word.

So yay! I don't know if I'd watch it over and over again - probably preferable to watch it with a partner, if you have one. But definetly worth watching, IMHO.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pacific Northwest Coast Art Books

Pacific Northwest Coast Native Art Books - remember how I said I locally ordered those three books, one called "Learning by Doing" and the other two called "Learning by Designing", volumes 1 & 2? Well, they are fantastic books.

Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast
Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art
Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, vol.1
Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Vol.2

"...Doing" is literally a classroom in a book - it's for teachers to Xerox into handouts for students for learning basic forms. I am a little beyond it but it has good "how to learn" info and has good practice for basic forms, which I'm still a little sloppy at. It's like drawing circles - it's hard to make them symmetrical and 'perfect' looking but if you practice long enough they become more natural. Same idea.

"...Designing", vol 1. is my favorite by far. It goes into all the basic forms (ovoids, U-forms, S-forms, eyes, salmon-trout heads) and how those make up basic parts (heads, arms, feet, bodies, faces, ears, etc) and what characteristics make up the major animals (Raven, Bear, Wolf, Orca, Eagle, etc.) and has dissective how-to's for how to go about designing a salmon-trout head, an orca head, etc. VERY useful to know what order to draw each thing in so that you can begin inventing your own designs. What's more, it chops up the entire Pacific Northwest Coast into four quadrants of art style - because there are HUGE differences in all of them (Tlingit, the furthest north, looks NOTHING like Salish, which is the furthest south). And through every single excercise and element the book constantly shows how a north coast element is different from a mid coast, west coast, and south coast element.

The second volume gets really technical and has lots of interviews with artists and things. It doesnt have much in the way of lessons or how-to's except for one big "how-to" for a generic Wolf, Orca, Thunderbird, Raven, etc. I think it will be more useful later on. Right now I've been practicing basic forms and find it to be calming and meditative. :)

Another good book is Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form by Bill Holm was extremely helpful. This book does not go into detail about meanings of the designs or even how to do them - it explains the 'rules' of how NWC is put together - the principles of design, figured out by years and years worth of reverse-engineering by comparing hundreds of examples of NWC art and seeing what is done and what is not done.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Linksys Routers - a review of support

Got DSL and a router for Xmas. Went to set up the router and only one computer could connect through it at a time to the internet - whichever computer connected first got the connection. Called the ISP, they tried to get me into my router, but no browser could get into its configuration page ( They said to call Linksys.

Called Linksys, got someone who I could barely understand (I think ALL their call centers are in Asia). They tried a ton of ways to get me into the router to no avail. Though they do not support Macs and have zero literature on their routers and Macs, the woman on the other end was quite knowledgeable. However, she couldn't figure it out and pronounced the router to be faulty and so had us send it in to them for a replacement (we'd lost the reciept).

Got the new router, went to set it up. Still couldn't get into the configuration page. Did a massive Google search on Macs and this model router - finally found some info on how to set up Network Prefs to get into the damn contraption. Was able to get into the router but had no clue how to set it up. Was stuck with three options:
1) connect to internet 1 computer at a time directly through modem with PPPoE settings,
2) connect to internet 1 computer at a time through router with PPPoE settings with inability to access the router, and
3) connect to just the router and its config. page but not the internet.

Once into the config page I still had no idea how to set it up to let me be ON the net AND to have more than one computer connected at a time.

Called my ISP. They had no clue what to do - as soon as I said "Linksys" she went on a sympathetic tirade about all the problems customers have with Linksys. Seems I wasn't alone but I still had my connection problem.

So I started a thread on the MacOSG about my problem. A few screencaps later the knowledgeable folks there had me up and running both my computer AND my sister's on the net.

The Solution
• Uncheck PPPoE options in the Mac's Network settings.
• Enable DHCP on the Mac - being sure to enter in my ISP's DNS numbers. Turn on the router and let it connect to me. Good!
• Using a browser, go into the router's config page (
• Set it up for PPPoE, enter in settings given by ISP. Enable DHCP.

Voila. Now we are both online, my sister and I. :D
I have the wireless function turned off for now since neither of us has an Airport card (we had thought Kais had one in her iMac - she plans on getting one soon so we don't have to trip step over the cable in the hallway).

Linksys sucks, but I guess that was a given. What was most amazing to me is how simple this was and yet the Linksys techs, with all their techie knowledge, had no idea what the problem was. One minor thing - pointing the Mac's network settings DIRECTLY to the router in order to access it, or knowing that PPPoE enabled will not allow a person to access their router. *headdesk* Thank god for the MacOSG.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fullmetal Alchemist

Last week I finished watching the 51 episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) and it was awesome:
• Great voice acting (Japanese)
• Good quality animation for a series - not a lot of reused frames or overuse of stills at all.
• Good soundtrack
• Great characters with nice character development and motivations across most of the board
• Awesome storyline - no loose threads, every plot element comes full circle over the course of the entire series.

Synopsis for those who don't know
FMA takes place in an alternate version of an early 20th century Europe and follows two teen brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who are talented alchemists in search of knowledge (and the fabled philosopher's stone) that could help them gain their original bodies/limbs lost in a horrible alchemy attempt at bringing their mother back from the dead. Their journeys lead them to uncovering all sorts of mysteries that twine into the brothers' own pasts.

I was really impressed at how solid the storyline was. With some of the longer series I've seen (most under 38 episodes) there are places where the story lags a bit. The most common pattern I've seen is that the first 6 or so episodes are a little slow and don't play as strong a part in the story as a whole as do later episodes. Not with FMA - the story starts off strong right away and I'd say all but maybe two episodes were integral to the series as a complete storyline. It didn't feel like I watched 51 episodes - it was just such a solid story it flew right by. Also nice is that they didn't run out of funding toward the end like with Neon Genesis Evangelion, which ruined that series for me. So the quality remained high throughout.

FMA would make a good anime for folks who don't normally watch anime. It takes place in more of a European culture so doesn't require knowledge of Japanese culture, which is sadly a put-off for some non-anime fans. FMA also blends humour in nicely, though it does use stylized faces for overly cute/silly bits, which I know some folks also don't like but is totally normal for most anime fans. I thought it helped keep the series from being overly heavy and brooding.

My only regret is that there isn't more, other than the movie "The Conqueror of Shambala" and apparently some OVAs (need to confirm this). I just bought it on and hopefully the universe doesn't continue to prevent me from watching it by keeping the DVD from arriving. ;)

9 out of 10 stars, highly reccomended.

Friday, June 1, 2007


I am getting tired of Photobucket's clunky interface. While I was working on putting art onto my Blogspot blog I realised I don't really have a clean collection of ALL my art in one spot. When I first started dabbling online I tried creating collections of my stuff on Geocities, but that place is crap. Photobucket is okay but clunky. I looked at Flickr but it's owned by Yahoo and Yahoo is pretty anti-Macintosh so I don't like using any of their products. Picassa, on the other hand, is owned by Google, which is Mac-friendly. And it integrates well with other Google applications so I'm going to begin collecting all my art into albums on Picassa and relinking stuff to there.

Also turns out you can download something that integrates iPhoto with Picassa online - since the Google Picassa application doesn't exist in Mac format yet.

So far I like Picassa. It's not as clean or high-end looking as Flickr but it does the job just the same and it integrates better with, since is owned by Google. Another fun element is the ability to mark your images on integrated Google Maps. Handy if you want to give folks an idea of where you were at when you took a certain photo.

Linking directly to images is clunkier than Photobucket, though. Gotta figure a way around that...