About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

03 October 2009

Hog Hoggidy Hog, Death Valley Blues Band and Rambling Bones

Wow - what a pumped up gig. It has been a long time since I was last in a really packed club, for some great local bands. Back 2 Basix was packed, and except for the obvious lack of good ventilation, it's fairly intimate size made a great gig atmosphere.

When I arrived, a band had just started but I missed their name. One of the other people at the gig said they were "Acoustic Fuzzygish", and some quick Google search got me the name: Rambling Bones. What was really impressive about the band, was their variety of musical styles, and the ability to merge different musical styles into a somewhat rambling ska style - with some really hilarious lyrics. And it does help that all the band members are really talented musicians too! Highlight was definitely "Stevie Wonder vs Slayer" (I think it was Slayer at least), taking lyrics of the heavy metal band, and singing it in the style of Stevie Wonder!

I watched Death Valley Blues Band once a while ago, and was very impressed. Tonight was no exception - and in fact, in my personal opinion; they were even better than Hog Hoggidy Hog! An 8 piece band, they were a tight fit on the stage; but it was a trully rocking performance - and the fact that most people were rocking out despite never having been to one of their gigs before is a really good testament to the quality of their music. I really think this band has what it takes to be one of the foremost bands in the country - great music, great stage precence, great musicians and rounding it all up, brilliant performance.

It has been a long time since I last saw the Hogs play live - probably in early 2007, or more likely in 2006 (I do have a blog post from 2005 ...). They have definitely not lost their touch, and they put up a really impressive 75 minute set, with great energy and getting the entire club moving! There were quite a lot of new songs, but while their sound has changed slightly (matured?), their style hasn't - and it was a great show.

30 September 2009

Movie: Dsitrict 9

District 9 is almost what a dream South African movie should be: starring South Africans, written by South Africans, directed by a South African and set in South Africa. That's not to say that it is an entirely South African production - the CGI is largely by WETA (of the Lord of the Rings Fame), music is not entirely South African (although Zola stars quite a bit) and it is produced by Peter Jackson.

And it should be; it has all the fundamental parts right: story, acting and production. A brilliant storyline (although it has lots of apartheid parallels, I think it rings closer to last year's xenophobic attacks than on apartheid) about an alien ship stranded in Johannesburg, and how they are put into slums and kept apart from the "humans". And the movie raises a number of very uncomfortable philosophical questions (which have been raised before in science fiction literature, but not in this manner) regarding the basic concept of human rights and would these extend to other "intelligent" species (or for that matter to non intelligent species.

The acting, many by new actors, is equally impressive with very believable performances. It is a South African movie starring South Africans - not Americans with fake accents. The dialogue and mannerisms are utterly believable making this movie very "authentic".

And lastly, the production values are superb; especially the CGI for the aliens and their technology. The aliens feature one of the best animations I have seen, and the scenes of alien weapons being utilised are spectacular.

I have seen a lot of comments on how well the movie can become a serial - I sincerely hope not. I think District 9 had a story to tell, and it told it well. Like the first Matrix movie, it may not close all the plot lines, but it is actually better that way.

29 September 2009

Airlines and Airports

  • Silver status on British Airways is hard to get (I got mine through asking nicely to be upgraded) but it really compares to "Gold" status within One World.
  • Airport lounges are a great way to get away from the general crowd at airports. Except maybe when dealing with SAA Lounge at OR Tambo, which seems to be overcrowded all the time.
  • Priority lugage handling is not what it is promised to be ... except at OR Tambo, where my BA priority tag was read as belonging to SAA :)
  • SAA is far better than Lufthansa, at least on the long haul between South Africa and Germany.
  • Lufthansa however gives more frequent flyer miles than SAA on cheaper economy class tickets
  • Finnair has an ad on TV (at least in Europe) on how different they are ... it is a lot of hogwash.
  • Frankfurt airport is usually a pain; but Terminal E is quite nicel and it is possible to travel between a few terminals without requiring a visit through the (thorough) security checks.
  • Berlin's Tegel is probably the worst airport I have been to in Europe when it comes to ease of use and facilities.
  • Helsinki's airport is rather uninspiring.
  • Finnair's lounge in Helsinki however is very cool with lots of funky seats.

28 September 2009

Virtual Goods 2009

This was my 3rd Virtual Goods Workshop, and my first as program chair. Without blowing my own horn too much, I think that although the number of papers in the workshop was not as high as I would have liked it to be, the quality of the papers was amazing.

The highlight for me was the keynote talk by Bill Rosenblatt, on the past, current and future of DRM. Like many in the DRM research community, it is well accepted that the biggest fundamental problem with DRM was not necessarily the technology, but the economics and the marketing that went in. More and more, DRM is being proposed as a means to enforce privacy legislation, one of the original use cases of DRM, that was overlooked in favour of pushing for a very small control set of copyright regulation enforcement. Bill Rosenblatt has been in the field of DRM for a long time, and the presentation was insightful on the many aspects that led to the current outlook on DRM.

Another interesting talk was Mario Kubek and Jürgen Nützel's paper on "Novel Interactive Music Search Techniques", which takes a number of different search techniques including text analysis, melody analysis, frequency analaysis and much more to derive the various genres that correspond to a musical item; and also look for similarities between musical pieces using sources such as Google and Wikipedia. It is certainly an interesting way for powering future media exploration.

Next year's Virtual Goods Workshop will take place in Namur, Belgium.