February 2011

Concert: Oh No Oh My + Giana Factory

Concert-wise this was been two expensive weeks. Last night I saw Oh No Oh My opening for Giana Factory at Studenterhuset. Rightfully, Pitchfork describes Danish Giana Factory as

frozen cold, electronic minimalism, heightening drama through an eerie starkness. [The Bloody Game album] is little more than pulsing bass and ricocheting keystrokes, as Loui Foo recites the lyrics with clinical dispassion.

They seem to have good success, and are among other things supporting Glasvegas. However it’s not my kind of music and I found myself a bit indifferent during their very minimalistic concert. As one of the only electronic bands I like, LCD Soundsystem understand that even for this kind of music you cannot replace someone playing proper old-fashioned drums with computer synthesisers ;)

Oh No Oh My was more to my liking. These guys from Austin, Texas are clearly solid musicians. A bit déjà vu, a bit innocent, would have preferred more edge, yet the indie rock band was still convincing enough for me to buy a copy of their latest album People Problems at their stand after the concert.

A small part of the decision to buy their album comes from wanting to support indie bands touring in Europe. I didn’t ask these guys about it but similar bands have said that touring Europe more or less balances out; what you get for playing is just enough to cover expenses. If this is true for Oh No Oh My then of course it means a free tour of Europe for the americans, in addition to increasing their fan base. However, a lot of time goes into production before the tour and it is still many days without cashing in a pay check; this was around day 40 for Oh No Oh My and they had yet to cover the UK. If it helps increasing the motivation for these bands to keep coming across the water then paying a bit more than I normally do for an ok album is fine with me, at least when the entrance fee is as low as 60 DKK, or roughly 8€, for two bands.

I talked to one of the band members briefly. Apparently they are friends with Okkervil River, a funny discovery as they reminding me of this other Austin band during the concert. Is there a special thing called the Austin indie sound? We briefly talked about the South by Southwest music festival and no doubt he heightened my interest in attending this monster at some point: 5 days of music in down town Austin which apparently can be made quite cheap as bands often give one official ticketed performance and then several unofficial free ones. Lastly, he mentioned that they played earlier this month at La Maroquinerie in Paris (for 13€ together with Maps & Atlases). Thinking that Murder match these guys it added a piece of evidence to my thoughts in the recent post about them.

Concert: Murder

I went to the Murder concert last night at Studenterhuset in Aalborg. A Danish band, their latest album, Gospel of Man, is a brilliant work of folky music and the concert lived well up to the record. I strongly recommend that you take a look at their website if you’re unfamiliar with the music – it’s not unlike Fleet Foxes in a more masculin or less barber shop kind of way. See also Gaffa’s album review (5/6) and interview with the lead singer.

Their performance was quite naturally soft and intimate, and they managed to create a surprisingly relaxed and very welcoming atmosphere. Quite easy to find these guys cute and charming. And very easy to identify the lead singer with the popular outsider described in the above-mentioned interview. They played a good mix of songs from their three albums. I bought a copy of the Gospel of Man album and need to take a second look at the other previous two on Spotify – I may have dismissed them too quickly. Oh, and one peculiar thing. The violin sound on No Room For Mistakes was made by drawing a bow across an electric guitar. First time I’ve see this.

Having just returned from a week of concerts in Paris I kept thinking that these guys could easily match many of the bands playing at some of the better semi-underground places there (such as La Maroquinerie or Flèche d’Or). I base this purely on the quality of their music though as I have yet to figured out the politics of getting a gig. Maybe what puzzles me is the, to me, more and more visible independence of good music and big venues. I have often wondered about this when going to concerts at my favourite venue in Paris. There you never know what you get: sometimes crap and once in a while a pearl. But all bands play for free. On the other hand, you can easily pay 20€ to go to another venue to watch a semi-boring concert by a lesser band simply supplying semi-interesting tunes to the mainstream. Of course some of this is due to fame. But if nothing else, it’s a reoccurring remainder as to how hard it must be to try to make a living out of music: being really good is simply not enough – you still have to play for free.

While Murder played for 12€ in Aalborg I suspect that they would play for a lot less in Paris, if not for free. When The Blue Van – the Danish band supplying music to one of the first iPad commercials – played at Flèche d’Or less than a year ago the entrance was 8€, for three bands (they weren’t even the main band) and a drink. Kudos to the guys who find the motivation to do this :)

My First LP + Buzzcocks Tickets

I bought my first LP record, or vinyl, today! For a while now I’ve been talking about getting an LP player and some LPs. There is just something very romantic about the idea of coming home tired from a long day at work, searching for the right LP to fit the mood, pouring yourself a drink, and sitting down for half an hour undisturbed by others and listing first to the needle in the empty groove and then suddenly great music.

Although I’m still without an LP player, my girlfriend gave me an LP as a present at the beginning of this month: Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. Excellent choice, and she even provided a frame so that I can at least look at it on my wall until I can actually play it. Today, by accident, I stopped by the little amazing music shop in Paris, Born Bad. Don’t be fooled by the name. Carrying mostly punk-related albums, they have a pretty good selection of both new and second-hand LPs at a good price (14€), as well as some CDs and t-shirts. I came across a new print of Closer by Joy Divison and thought that this is one of those albums you have to listen to in full length instead of just picking a few tracks, and hence a perfect match for my above mentioned mission. Et voila, my first LP :)

Oh and by the way, they had a flyer at the music store mentioning that the Buzzcocks are playing in Paris later this spring. Tickets secured; they are pretty old by now but I don’t want to miss seeing one of the first punk bands playing. Apparently they have been giving concerts more or less every other year since the late 70’s, keeping a good shape. And although some new albums have been made they supposedly still play the good old songs. How can you not go see some of the old original punkers playing teenage songs such as Ever Fallen in Love or Orgams Addict?

New Camera

For a long time I’ve been searching for a fish-eye lens for my camera. I rarely see them used for anything serious but they are amazingly fun :)

Initially I imagined getting a new lens for my old Nikon camera but I haven’t been able to find one at a good value, especially when it’s just for shits and giggles. Today however, I came across what I suspect could be a near-perfect solution: a Lomo Fisheye 2. I’ve rejected the Lomo cameras before because I can’t really identify with the whole Lomo movement, but for a fish-eye it makes perfect sense. The lens is silly, the camera is silly, the photos are silly. And version 2 of this camera has some added features which I hope will make it a bit more than just a toy.

This means the first analogue camera for me, and I’m actually a bit excited about the prospects of being forced to work closer to the physics of photography than what has been the case so far on the Nikon D60.

It’s a very simple camera: one exposure setting with an aperture of f/8 and shutter speed of 1/100. Combined with it being a fish-eye lens with fixed focal length this gives some interesting aspects. After having played with it for a day two things come off as the most challenging compared to shooting on my digital camera: how to compose and how to ensure enough light. And in trying to answer either one of them I again and again look for the missing playback button.

The challenge of composition arises from the fixed focal length meaning that you physically have to move back and forth to fit objects in the frame. This becomes more challenging since it’s amazingly tricky with the fish-eye to see how some scene is going to look; you basically find yourself holding the viewfinder to your eye all the time :). The challenge of ensuring enough light comes from the lack of a light meter. I suspect it’s just a matter of experience and have dedicated the first few rolls to research.

There’s a few minor habits as well, like remembering to scroll before the next photo and taking the cap off before shooting (the viewfinder is separate from the lens so it’s easy to waste photos in this way). You also have to keep in mind that there’s only 36 shots on a roll, each of which comes with a price tag. Luckily, the Fisheye 2 uses standard 35mm film, but still.

I bought the camera in the Lomography store close to my studio on Rue La Fayette. They have one of the better selections of this stuff that I’ve seen in Paris.

More to come.

Concert: Noah and the Whale

When I saw them one year ago in London, folky Noah and the Whale had just released their second album The First Days of Spring. As far as I understand, the lead singer and main songwriter was basically dumped by his girlfriend in favour of the lead singer of Mumford & Sons, became quite miffed about this, and dedicated their entire second album to the break-up. Naturally this created a sentimental and reflexive album. It’s definitely not a bad album, but not first choice if you need to put yourself in a happy mood. Anyway, when they played at The Roundhouse last year they had just released this album and hence it should of course take up a big part of the act. But in my opinion they made the mistake of playing more or less the entire album in a row, separating their first and cheerful album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down with a long session of heavy and sad music. I left the concert a bit disappointed as I had mostly expected a concert matching the fun and silly 5 Years Time.

Last night we went to see them playing in Paris at Café de la Danse. My expectations were lower but this time they lived up to them, and even a bit more. Like the ex-girlfriend I’m still a much bigger fan of Mumford & Sons but this time around they had the songs arranged in a good order, even drawing me to a more positive view on the sad songs; I’ve been playing the second album quite a few times since (especially Love of an Orchestra, Stranger, and Blue Skies).

In summary a good concert that I wouldn’t mind repeating. They seem shy and sticking to a simple (and at times a bit boring) show. Our angle on the upper right balcony wasn’t good for this but I did not really feel that touched nor captivated. (A fun angle though, like a fly on the wall watching a show and its audience.) Oh yeah, like in London they played 5 Years Time on the guitar instead of on the ukelele as they do on the album. This song brought the ukelele to my attention; can’t help but being slightly disappointed when they just abandon it like that.

Oh, they played some songs off they new album Last Night On Earth. It seemed interesting, yet more rock and mainstream than folk and indie. I want to give it a listen, but haven’t yet gotten around.

Japanese Paper Submitted

We’ve just submitted what I’ve been referring to as “the japanese paper”!

Written together with professor Naoki Kabayashi and his student Yunde Sun this was my first time working with Japanese people. It didn’t make a huge difference. I installed a Dashboard widget to easily show what time it was in Japan (8 hours ahead), and that was more or less it. Naoki was very polite and fair, and the whole experience has left me thinking that spending some time in Japan might not be a bad idea.

For the more technical stuff, the paper deals with how to enable a computer to automatically analyse security protocols for errors. The motivation behind this is that human designers of these protocols are notorious for missing critical details that years later allow some bad guy to do some nasty stuff. Giving these designers computer tools to verify the details is the essence of our work. The formal abstract is as follows:

Gordon and Jeffrey developed a type system for verification of asymmetric and symmetric cryptographic protocols. We propose a modified version of Gordon and Jeffrey’s type system and develop a type inference algorithm for it, so that protocols can be verified automatically as they are, without any type annotations or explicit type casts. We have implemented a protocol verifier based on the algorithm, and confirmed its effectiveness. We also formally investigate the relationship between Gordon and Jeffrey’s type system and ours.

We have submitted the paper to the Computer Security Foundations 2011 Symposium (CSF ’11) and will know whether it is accepted or not by the end of March.

Today also marks the end of a rather busy period! It’s been too much. At the level you can only keep for a short time and where physical symptoms start to show (in this case chest pains). Three sweet sweet weeks of vacation awaits me now :).

New Blog

For a while I’ve been wanting to start writing a blog again. Off the top of my head I think it’s partly to share my doings and thoughts with family, friends, and anyone interested, and partly to build a journal for myself. Combined with the fact that I’ve realised Facebook isn’t the way to go a blog seemed natural: in my eyes Facebook is dying (as a result of companies and mothers starting to use it) and was perhaps never suitable for blog material anyway. As I also have plans for using my Internet domain to present my photos it seemed suitable to have the personal stuff in the form of a blog.

For now posts will mainly fall in three categories: photography, music, travel, and university. The first three are outlets about the fun I have in life, including places I visit, photos I take, exhibitions and concerts I go to, and albums I come across. The last one contains the serious updates on how the PhD is coming along :). Perhaps a bit contrary to my previous blog I will try to make posts more personal and less about the facts.

Finally a few name droppings for those interested in the technical details. It was an easy choice to use WordPress as the blogging software. Photo storage was another thing, most notable because I wanted a solution where I could control as much as possible directly from Adobe Lightroom, including uploading and updating photos. I decided to go with Flickr since it seems flexible, cheap, is extendable via the Flickr API, and integrates well with Lightroom. Having decided on these systems Bluehost seemed to provide the best hosting service for the price. Finally, I’m using Slickr Flickr to pull the photos from Flickr down to the blog, and using Lightbox Plus to display in an interactive way.