2023.09.24 – Weekly Wrap Up (09.17.2023 – 09.23.2023)

I am bad at selfies.  I added one last week to these little journal posts and I wanted one for this week but they are kind of bad.  Or maybe I am just bad at looking excited.

Anyway, I’m not late, I am intentionally not on time, because I was busy yesterday.  I spent almost all day in Champaign (Urbana technically) at the Pygmalion event at the Rose Bowl Tavern.  I’m actually not sure if there is one of these or more of them per year, but it’s apparently the 19th year.  It’s a little craft vendor fair alongside a bunch of musical acts both indoor and outdoor.  I primarily went to see Lauren Mayberry’s first solo tour.  But I also like music, so I went early to see all of the outdoor shows.  There was swap flip-flopping between in and out on the schedule, I didn’t want to lose my spot up front, so I just stayed outside.  There were other Lauren/CHVRCHES fans there doing the same, which isn’t surprising.

Overall I saw 6 acts total, one of the scheduled outdoor acts, ggwendolyn, had to cancel.  This also meant the schedule got compacted up and while it was originally supposed to start at 1:45, things didn’t start until 2:45.  So I got there early, and then got to wait a bit longer than expected.  Not a huge deal.  I got to watch them doing the soundcheck, which, at least for me, was super interesting.  This guy, we’ll call him Bob, because that was his name, everyone on stage called him that, would go around checking mics and making sure things work then he’d head into the “crowd” and have band members do tests to balance things out.  Then they would all adjust their little personal directional speakers for levels on the various tracks (vocals, drums, guitars, etc.) on a personalized basis.  All from a little portable wireless pad.  It was neat.

Also, I say “crowd” because at this stage of the day, there were, maybe 20-30 people mingling around the small parking lot area where the shows took place.    As the day went on, the bands became clearly more and more professional about how they operated, and basically just, produced better and better sound.  As as that progressed, the crowd size grew and grew.  It was fun to watch actually.  From fairly basic setups to more and more complex setups, from using the house speakers for the feedback audio to using in-ear headsets.  From just, checking the watch after every song to see how much time there was to play, to having a full-on set list, ready and set up and available.  From random comments about writing up songs because of “X”, to having full-on fun little stories.

Anyway, I saw, in order:

  • Emily the Band – She mentioned that she went to school at U of I in Champaign and had played at the Rose Bowl Tavern a few times, so they seem to more or less be a local band.  It was the first time they got to play on the main stage.    I enjoyed their set and they seemed like they were having a fun time all around.
  • Fiona Kimble – She was alright, though probably my least favorite of the day.  The easy comment here is, it felt like there were too many people on stage, but then she said the pianist had come in special and they did a couple of duet songs, so well, maybe it felt like too many people because they had a bonus person in their set.
  • Lutalo – I really enjoyed his set.  It was very low key, basically finger-picking folk music on an electric guitar.  Dude seemed to really get into his songs too.
  • Tim Atlas – Dude was really good, and they hit all the right notes of having a band that felt like they all were really having a good time while putting out some good, varied music.  The guitarist also had a talk box (think Peter Frampton, Do You Feel Like We Do), for one song, which was fun.
  • Claud – The only artist I managed to get around to listening to before the show, and it’s funny how much that changes one’s perception.  I also found that I really enjoyed Claud’s music, from my before the show listening, and I was already kind of a fan, because it’s enjoyable.  I don’t really know why but it kind of reminds me of sort of, toned down a bit King Princess.  Just the vocal styling, the lyrics, and all that.  I want to listen to more of the artists I saw but probably Claud most of all.
  • Lauren Mayberry – Ok, Claud most of all, behind the obvious.  I tried to mostly avoid watching other people’s videos of Lauren’s solo tour, so I could mostly go into this show blind.  I had already listened to the one single, *Are You Awake*, and I had listened to *Crocodile Tears* beforehand.  It was all great, and definitely a good different feel from Chvrches.  Kind of reminds me a bit of Wolf Alice maybe.  Probably my favorite was the final track, *Sorry Etc*, which is one extreme end of the styling and very very “screamo punk rock” style.  The other end probably being *Are You Awake*.  Also, probably just because of where I ended up standing up front on the end of the stage when she came to my side of the stage, she seemed to be “angry face screaming” a few times like right at me.  

    Please don’t want to kill me Lauren, I’m sorry, etc.

Anyway, I’ll probably make a gallery of my photos at some point, though they aren’t real amazing, my phone’s camera isn’t super great.  I had asked them about bringing my proper camera and it was in the car but I decided it was too much of a hassle.  

I did have a fun good sign moment before the show.  I had stopped in a few stores over in Champaign before the show, and when I walked into Five Below, there was a familiar voice on the radio, with the CHVRCHES/Marshmallow collab track Here With Me.  It took me a minute to place the song because I don’t really listen to it, basically ever.  I keep forgetting it exists, which is funny because in some ways it may be the most popular CHVRCHES track due to the Marshmello exposure.

The rest of the week was relatively uneventful aside from Friday evening.  I went and met up with my parents and brother and a couple of my nieces and we went to watch the Route 66 Carshow parade in Springfield.  I didn’t end up taking any photos, but it was fun.  Basically, a lot of the classic cars that are in the show itself all just, drive to downtown.  They go a pretty good distance, as they start down near Dirksen and Stevenson Drive and go downtown.  I realize this is meaningless to most people but this means they go 3 miles or so up Stevenson and then 3 miles or so up 6th Street to downtown Springfield.  It’s a good distance on some main throughways in the city, especially for a bunch of classic show cars.  Also, there is a police presence, but they also don’t block the roads, so there are just, regular cars driving around them.

I’m sure I’ll write up on it eventually, but I also kind of spur of the moment updated my PC from Windows 10 to Windows 11. It’s mostly the same honestly. I hate how I can’t dock the taskbar to the side though and I immediately changed is the centering on it though because the centered icons is functionally garbage and it’s ugly as shit. I also found a cheap price to update it to the Pro version from Windows Home. There are a few virtualization things that are only in Pro, but also only Pro allows for Remote Desktop access. It’s actually something I have been wanting to do even in Windows 10, for the same reasons. Also, in theory, I think Pro has fewer ads stuck in it, because well, you’re paying for it.

On Friday before going to Springfield I had the day off so we also put out the fall decorations around the outside of the house, though they aren’t completely finished. Also a few indoor ones but my wife does all that, I just haul totes around for that.

Activity Log

I’m not going to go into it all, but one of the stores I went to was Ollie’s.  Which I’ve been to elsewhere years ago when traveling, but this one opened up recently, closer to where I live.  It’s basically a closeout store, lots of stuff for like, 75% less than what it would have been originally.  They had a ton of Marvel Legends I didn’t care much about, and a few Star Wars Black Series I didn’t care about.  What I did pick up was a pile of Fortnite stuff.  Also, they had a bunch of Eternals Marvel Legends, which I have most of from previous markdowns, but I picked up Ajak, which was the only one I didn’t have.  I kind of really like the design of the Eternals, but I they are also all very samey looking, with almost no accessories, which made the figures a huge turn-off at the standard ML pricing.  I’ve managed to collect them all at like half price or below, which is just fine for me.

Not much else otherwise this week.

CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

I feel like at some point I should get around to covering the rest of the CHVRCHES album lineup aside from Screen Violence. In proper fashion, I’m going to roll it back to their first album, The Bones of What You Believe. It’s appropriate because it’s the 10th anniversary of the album. I actually can’t say accurately when I first listened to CHVRCHES, though I can say I only recently started caring about them. I know that when I started to care, I realized that I already had at least one album I had bought on Amazon. So at some point, they showed up in a $5 album sale, and I decided I liked the sound and impulse bought it.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the album also recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary.

I also know that for a while I was aware somewhere of a band called “Churches” because for some reason I thought maybe they did that song Take Me to Church, which is actually by Hozier. This is based entirely on the whole Church/CHVRCH thing.

Whatever the case, while I probably heard their more popular tracks starting from this album, I didn’t really start listening until much later, though before the Screen Violence era. Anyway, after I started listening, shortly before Screen Violence, probably at the recommendation of folks in the Sigrid Discord, they quickly shot up to the top tier of my favorite artists. They are currently 2nd on my Last.fm scrobbles. I imagine that another influence was my obsession with Forza Horizon 4, which features Never Say Die, from Love is Dead.

I would say it’s hard to pick a favorite song from the album, except the track Gun is on this one, and it’s my favorite CHVRCHES track, so that’s pretty easy to pick. I just really love the metaphor of the hook. You fucked up, and you’re going to pay for it.

Maybe my second favorite track on this album is Tether, though it wasn’t always. It’s sort of grown into that place. I just absolutely love the build from calm and slow to the break at the peak. I also really enjoy the vocal effects and overlapping sounds of this one.

There are plenty of fan favorites and other notable tracks though. Their first big single, Mother We Share is such a good opener to the album with the echoing vocals. I particularly like the up-and-down background rhythms and the slappy fake clap beat that runs throughout. I want to say Lies, was the first track they actually performed during live sets, and while it’s popular, it’s probably one of my least favorite tracks on the album, because it’s very repetitive and flat in it’s overall presentation.

A few more of the more popular tracks are Night Sky, which I believe took 2nd place for most popular in the CHVRCHES Discord tournament (behind Clearest Blue). Science/Visions goes incredibly hard, and is pretty amazing live as well. Recover was the second single from Bones and has some following but it reminds me a lot of lies in that it’s a bit repetitive and it’s lower on my list of songs I enjoy. Another really good one is We Sink, which drives pretty hard and really shows off the CHVRCHES sound well.

Also notable is how many Martin lead songs are on this album. What I understand reading the history of the band, is that Martin was going to be the lead vocals before Lauren came along. There are two tracks from Martin on the base version of this album, Under the Tide and You Caught the Light. The Deluxe version adds the previously released track Zvvl, and the 10th-anniversary release adds in the previously unreleased Manhattan and Talking in My Sleep. That’s quite a few Martin tracks from the early era of CHVRCHES. It certainly would have been a different band without Lauren.

Another that I’ve started enjoying a lot more lately, though it seems contradictory since I dislike the repetition of Lies and Recover is Tightrope, though it’s only on certain bonus versions, and is a cover of Janelle Monáe. I just rather like the “T-t-tightrope” stutter lyrics and the varying vocals in the “high or low” bits.

All in all, like most of CHVRCHES music, it’s pretty much all good. I’ve been listening to this album for a while, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming 10th-anniversary re-release and all it entails.

Second Life – The Hobby I Never Talk About

I talk about a lot of my hobbies, and I have a lot of them, mostly revolving around the digital realm. I have one hobby that I really never discuss, It’s been one of my longest-running interests too. That’s Second Life, the online virtual world. I sometimes abandon it for a while but I always come back to it eventually. I don’t think it’s technically the first, and it’s certainly not the only one, but it’s effectively the most “successful” virtual world. I think maybe, the most recent VR Chat is the only other one to actually have any sort of real staying power. Minecraft kind of counts too really.

The current term being tossed around for this is “Metaverse”. I think technically the current use of “Metaverse” is a bit different, it’s more, the melding of the virtual and real world. The weird thing is, if you lean too much into that concept, the metaverse is literally just, “the internet”. And it already does it better than anything with a 3D avatar-based world would ever do. The original use of the term Metaverse though predates Facebook’s coopting of the term and Ready Player One’s boring popularization of the concept.

The original vision of what a Metaverse is, was basically a 3D mirror of real life, but cool and fantastical. Originally from the 1992 novel Snow Crash, one of my favorite books, highly recommended. The book takes place in a dystopian cyberpunk future where corporations basically run everything in the real world. But people can escape to this virtual user-run environment called the Metaverse. Second Life is explicitly based on this concept, per the creators. In Snow Crash, the entire Metaverse is connected and exists on a sort of “virtual planet”. Most of the world exists in a centralized point near a highway that circumnavigates the world. Think, a digital version of the Las Vegas Strip.

My point here is more that, Zuckerberg and Facebook, did not invent the Metaverse. And while it’s the same basic idea, Ready Player One did not invent the concept of the Metaverse. Snow Crash is an infinitely better book than the series of nostalgia lists that is Ready Player One. Ready Player One is like the McDonald’s of Metaverse concepts and frankly, I kind of hate it.

The key with Snow Crash’s world was that, like Second Life, it was all user-created. People ran elaborate clubs and had fancy apartments all customized up to their needs. It was slick and cool and embodied the idea of a virtual utopia space. There was even an interesting concept around the idea of people who were hardcore into it having elaborate and detailed custom avatars while casual folks would use some sort of basic default, and super casual folks had essentially a static image crappy avatar. Which sort of translates well into how Second Life’s avatars work. Because there are some defaults offered by Linden Lab, but to really show off your own personality, it’s best to spend a bit on your own customizations, or even just, do it yourself, because you can edit your avatar’s shape and make your own clothing and hairs and skins and attachable body part alternatives if you’d like. You can be a giant wolfman or dragon if you want, you can be a techno samurai ninja, you can be a tiny cartoon cat, you can be a regular normal-looking cat. You can literally be, whatever you want, with enough skill, or for a bit of money to another user who has enough skill.

Thrax Jigsaw

It’s all part of what keeps me coming back. I am not even particularly social in world. I think mostly I like the idea of what it represents. And I like seeing everything people do and create in world. I think this is a lot of why it manages to succeed where a lot of other “Metaverse” attempts fail. It’s extremely open in it’s creation. There is a quote from someone I can’t remember that is something like, “Second Life is a creation tool with a chat engine strapped on.” I am pretty sure I butchered that but that’s the gist of it. It’s better to mention other games and virtual worlds maybe for comparison. Like Meta Horizons, the one pushed by Facebook. I admit, I have not used it, I don’t have a VR headset and frankly, it just doesn’t interest me much. From what I can tell, it’s a sterile money-driven platform. Do people even get places to build things in world? Can anyone create a plot of virtual space for others to visit? Can you just freely trade items and objects and clothing, or is it forced to go through a marketplace where Facebook can skim a cut?

Or something like Fortnite and Roblox, which are kind of, super-gamified virtual worlds. Roblox is a bit better I think, but Fortnite has pretty limited options for creation, limited to placing objects on a gridded space. I have seen a lot of cleverly built things in Fortnite, but it’s not quite as robust. Also, everything exists in separate spaces. Second Life kind of does this with private regions, but the regions are connected. With a large enough draw distance you can see other nearby regions, even across the dead space ocean. It also has one thing I don’t think any other virtual world has, the Mainland.

The Mainland, which is increasingly expanding and connected, thanks to Linden Lab’s efforts and the addition of the Belisaria continents for better user homes. You can start at the upper edge of the Heterocera continent, and walk, fly, or travel in some sort of vehicle, and cross probably a thousand regions going down through Sansara, and Belisaria, and back up across to the eastern tip of Gaeta V. This doesn’t

It’s a very unique experience, and despite that it’s incredibly buggy at times, it works. It’s probably the largest world in any “game”. And it’s covered in user-generated content. Linden Lab has some “official” areas, maintained by the Moles, employees of LL who take care of the world, but for the most part, it’s all user-generated and created. It makes for a very, hodgepodge experience. It really leans into the idea that it’s a world where anyone can be or do what they want. This doesn’t even get into the thousands of user-owned private regions scattered around the space surrounding the mainland. There are a total of 27777 regions as of this writing, 9400 of them owned by Linden Lab (the Mainland). You could never see them all even if you tried. Actually, you definitely couldn’t because many are restricted access and private.

I have never owned a private region myself, though I have run some private regions on OpenSIM off and on (OpenSIM is an open-source, SL-compatible self-hosted clone). It’s much too expensive for me to afford, but I have owned land pretty consistently for a few years. The nice thing is that it’s easy to move. Want to live near a road? Want to live near an ocean? Want to live on a mountain, it’s very easy to sell or abandon your plot and move elsewhere. I like to change up what’s on my land as well. I’ve had a variety of different homes, a few different space stations up in the sky, a shop with a skatepark, a simple little public space park, and for a bit a little medieval castle. That’s just, all part of the beauty of this, is that I can build whatever I want. It doesn’t even have to be a functional place, it can just be some sort of crazy artsy build.

In the past, most building was done in-world with primitives, which are just, cubes that can be manipulated in a lot of ways (to make them not cubes.) These days most building is done outside of the world in 3D software like Blender, to make mesh 3D models. They look much much nicer and are way more efficient from a land impact perspective.

There is also scripting, which I’ve gotten fairly good at. Second Life has it’s own coding language called Linden Scripting Language that can be used to make stuff happen with hooks into most every aspect of the world that can be coded up and manipulated. I’ve scripted up fancy vendors, and little games, and manipulatable props with doors and lids, and a few utility HUDs that mostly deliver information to the user. There is quite a bit needed to get really good at manipulating the world and building, but there is no shortage of people willing to help.

Which is another thing I just love about the world. For the most part, everyone is very friendly. I mentioned, in general, I’m not the most sociable person, but I do occasionally socialize. I like to visit building classes at Builder’s Brewery, for example. I also have joined several help groups, so I can chime in and assist others when needed when I’m online. Everyone is also just, very open and accepting of everything and everyone. You rarely see real arguments about anything going on, unless someone is spamming or being rude.

Signs from SL20b, talking about the early version of the world.

All of this is just a pile of reasons why I think Second Life has managed to last for 20+ years now. All of these latest pushes into the Metaverse just feel very sterile and corporate.

Music Monday – One Take Edition

I am an absolute sucker for one-take media. Movies and music. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I do a series of one-take videos. I prefer it when the one-take is real, but sometimes well-hidden cuts are acceptable.

Dodie – Cool Girl

I just love this song and this video. I really enjoy this style of sort of, “raw dancing” where it’s a little messy and unstructured. I also like the sort of, symbolism of Dodie being slightly “off” from the other dancers, it fits with the themes of the lyrics and theme of the song. It seems intentional because she will be slightly off, then in perfect sync, then off again. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. The song itself is really good as well. It starts out so light then the thumpy beat comes in and it builds up nicely from there.

Total side note, I am slightly enamored with the chest of drawers and nightstand in the opening bit. I have a collection of photos of furniture I have come across in this style because it seems weirdly prolific in the vintage furniture market for some reason.

Kiesza – Hideaway

I think this may be the first video I watched that turned me on to Kiesza’s music.

Something I find amusing about this whole video is that I am pretty sure that a lot fo the non-dancers, are just, people who were out and about. The dudes trying to go to their car. The person ho runs through he shot on the skateboard. One tell for this is how at the end, the Taxi almost gets caught in traffic and almost misses the cue. Also everyone seems to be having a good time, which I like.

OK Go – The One Moment

I could do an entire month’s worth of Music Monday posts on OK Go, instead, I’ll just sprinkle them in here and there. A lot of their videos are one-take videos or fake one-takes. This one is pretty amazing because it’s an extremely fast one take, that’s slowed down.

The behind-the-scenes for OK Go are almost always fascinating as well, or at least, the engineering part of my brain thinks they are. Like all the math that was needed to get the timing for this video down so it would work in the slowed-down version. I mean, I am sure there is some fudging going on, but it’s doing to be damn close.

Nirvana – Unplugged in New York

While I have a lot of “favorite albums”, there is one that I have fairly consistently considered my absolute favorite, and it’s Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York. Originally recorded as part of MTV’s Unplugged show. It was the first Nirvana album released after Kurt Cobain’s death. There are quite a few of these types of albums from MTV’s Unplugged show by different bands. From back when MTV actually played Music all the time.

I just love everything about this album. I love the goofy chatter between the songs. I love the fact that there are plenty of electric effects and an electric guitar in Nirvana’s “Unplugged Set”, because Nirvana doesn’t care apparently. I particularly love that it’s not just an acoustic greatest hits album. I think at least half the songs are covers and most are not their “top hits”. Come As You Are and All Apologies are probably the only real big hits on the album, though there are a couple of others. They aren’t even necessarily covering the big hits of other groups either.

While I really like every track, the covers may actually be my more favored tracks. The Man Who Sold the World, originally by David Bowie is excellent. Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam is great as well. There are three covers of Meat Puppets tracks, Plateau, Oh Me, and my favorite of these three, Lake of Fire. Members of the Meat Puppets also participated in this set.

The set ends with another non-Nirvana track Where Did You Sleep Last Night which is a folk song done by a variety of artists over a period and also goes by several other names. The whole, “angsty 90s Cobain” really shines through on this track and I really like it as well.

The set opens with About a Girl, which as Cobain comments, “this was off our first record, most people don’t own it,” which is certainly accurate as Nirvana wasn’t really popular until Nevermind and then later In Utero. It’s a nice and interesting throwback to the band’s origins. The last track I wanted to throw out as one of my favorites from this album comes from In Utero, Pennyroyal Tea, despite its kind of random and rambly nature, really fits this format well.

I think one thing I really like about this album is just how much it’s Nirvana’s messy and gunge style, cleaned up in a slick format, which still keeps the messy and grunge feel. I don’t really know how else to describe it. That isn’t to say Nirvana isn’t a great band, but I really feel like this album lets them really show a great other side to the band and everyone seems to be generally having a good time making this music as well.