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Macbook Pro MKII: Future Artifact

Posted by Scott

DSC_2472.jpgDSC_2513.jpg DSC_2485.jpg As you may have already guessed, I caved in and got a new Macbook Pro (MKII, Unibody….whatever it’s called) last weekend. Since there’s no sense in beating around the bush with this one, I’ll come right out and say it: This is possibly the most beautiful, functional, and elegant piece of hardware I have ever owned (or been in the same room with for that matter). Obviously it’s a looker, there’s no denying the aesthetic appeal; it feels as if you’re in the presence of some artifact transported back from the future. It’s almost impossibly thin and the weight is perfectly balanced, it feels almost like a solid brick of aluminum. The most incredible part is the power hiding beneath that sleek skin, it’s hard to believe Apple crammed it all into this svelte form factor. I think the real key to the success of this design is the fact that it feels and looks like one solid object. All laptops I have used until this point sort of felt like a loose collection of disparate components shoehorned into a flimsy shell. The new Macbook feels like a single unit; a rugged, seamless, integrated tool. As it should, the body is carved from a single piece of aluminum.

The battery life is also great, I have been squeezing around 4 hours out of a single charge which blows away my previous HP laptops. I Would have to say my favorite part though is the new trackpad. It’s huge, lacking a button (actually, it’s just one big button), and very responsive. The gestures are genius: four finger gestures activate expose functions, three fingers handles navigation (fwd, back, etc..) and the old two finger scrolling is intact. This is the first laptop I’ve used where I wasn’t constantly wishing for a mouse. The keyboard is great too, very nice tactility with a solid feel. A great improvement over previous versions in my opinion. Bottom line: Believe the hype, this thing is a winner.

Ok, so enough gushing, everyone knew the new Macbook Pro was going to be an amazing machine before it even came out. It does have two potentially major weaknesses, and while they pale in comparison to the upshots, I feel compelled to list them here in case any are deal breakers for those of you considering buying one. First up: the infamous glossy screen. A lot of people have lamented the death of the matte screen option which was available on the previous incarnation of the MBP. But to tell you the truth, it really doesn’t bother me like I thought it would (and kind of gives me a nostalgic feeling for my old CRTs). The glossy screen was originally a deal breaker for me, I was planning to wait until they released a matte version (which is supposedly in the works) as my previous HP gloss screens were absolutely terrible. But after comparing the new MBP with an old matte MBP, I definitely prefer the new screen. Given, it is an LED so the brightness and contrast are better than the old LCDs to begin with, so perhaps a matte version of the new LED would win out in the end. But honestly, this has turned out to be a non-issue for me; I have yet to encounter a lighting situation in which I had a big problem with glare. I took a shot of the MBP doing it’s best mirror impression (below). Keep in mind that the screen was turned off for this picture and I was running some very bright photo flood lights, so it really amplifies the effect a bit more than a normal usage scenario. That shiny screen is a fingerprint / scratch magnet though, I can’t imagine it still looking very pretty in a year or so.

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Next up is Apple’s new Mini Display Port format. It’s a very, very small port that handles all of the video output duties on the new Macbook. I’m all for innovation and moving forward, but this seems like too much too soon. It also seems like Apple is just trying force it’s customers to adopt it’s own, proprietary format. My issue with the Mini Display Port isn’t that I had to buy $100 in adapters just to make it work with my existing equipment (although that wasn’t exactly a plus), my problem is that, for the time being at least, there is no TV out for the Macbook Pro. The old full-sized DVI ports had four analog pins that allowed for an S-Video or Composite adapter to be used. Even the mini-DVI ports, which would have fit fine in this new form factor, supported analog output. You might say that S-Video and Composite are old formats and worthy of deprecation in this day and age, but a lot of video professionals still rely on these formats for live performance. For most VJs, DVI or VGA just isn’t an option as a lot of venues don’t supply them on stage and most video mixers still run off S-Video/Composite only. I know this isn’t an issue that will effect the masses (clearly who Apple are shooting for), but the word “Pro” does appear at the end of this laptop’s name and I’d expect it to have all the “pro” features included. And even if you aren’t a pro, it’s always nice to be able to hook up to an older (sans-HDMI/DVI) TV in a pinch. I was really caught off guard by this issue since at the time of purchase I was told that TV out was possible and the nice salesman even sold me a TV-out adapter (which of course didn’t work considering It’s only compatible with the old MBP. Something I didn’t learn until I got home). There is hope though, I read somewhere that the new Nvidia chip does support analog out, it’s just a matter of Apple taking advantage of this ability and offering an adapter. But since they don’t currently offer such an option, I’ll have to go plunk down another $100 for a TV scan-converter which will further degrade the already poor S-Video/Composite signal I’m trying to output. (See Peter Kirn’s Create Digital Motion article for more info on alternatives to TV-out on the Macbook.) And if all that’s not enough, those who invested in Apple’s flagship 30″ Cinema display have to purchase yet another $100 adapter just to make Mini Display Port work with their monitor. So to sum up, that’s a potential $300 extra just to get your shiny new Macbook to play nice with all your existing gear/formats. (And that’s not counting a Firewire 400 adapter.)

Obviously, neither of these relatively minor issues were enough to turn me off to this otherwise incredible machine. But I guess when I see something so near perfection and the only things holding it back are such simple fixes, I tend to fixate on those problems. The bottom line is that this is a huge leap forward in mobile computing and would serve any creative well. $2000 gets the base model and $2500 will get you the beefed up version (4GB ram / larger HD / 512MB vram). The student discount will knock off around $200.

So what say you? Anyone else scored one yet? Any thoughts / issues? Sound off in the comments.

Domotic+Ehlers+TIM+Bibio+Pub

Posted by Jakub

EhlersWell composed ambient music with dynamics always brings a smile to my face no matter how sad people think the song might be. I want to start from bottom to top on this post since this Pub song “Lunch” is the most listened to song on my iTunes with just over 100 plays and clocking in at under 17 minutes long. I don’t know much about Pub, i’ve emailed him a couple times telling him I was a big fan years ago but I think he just keeps to himself I guess which is fine. I’ve honestly never heard anything else like this song, he makes this sound that fluctuates thru the song that feels like your standing in a clear huge air tunnel with the sun just beating down on you thru the glass and you stand there taking on a clean 30 MPH wind with your eyes closed. If you want more by him I’ve posted another alias of his months ago where he went under the name Lucky & Easy.
I went to the label Mush to check to see if Bibio was releasing anything anytime soon and behold there it was, a new LP. They had one song to sample and it couldn’t be more beautiful, a bit short but i’ll take whatever I can get my hands on. Very similar to his sound on his last 2 albums but thats what I want from him; lo-fi folk songs that bring me back to daydreaming about Polish mountain sides, collecting rocks, and thinking about how crayons we’re made.
My friend Danny turned me onto The Innocence Mission when I was getting my first listen in on Sufjan Steven’s Come on Feel the Illinoise! album. The song “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” came on and he ran upstairs and yelled “what’s this rip off artists name?” He thought the songs sounded the same, I still to this day don’t hear it. I guess he was just very protective of The Innocence Mission.
All this time I thought I already posted this Ekkehard Ehlers song but haven’t instead I was actually going to post Yo La Tengo – Autumn Sweater but i’ve already done that, damn. This song just completely satisfies my ambient sweet tooth by offering up some of the richest layers of drone you’ll ever hear. Each time I listen to this song I find a new section to magnify and listen to over and over.
As Autumn is rolling thru I have to throw my ring in with the first winter themed song by French musician Domotic, the beginning really captures that frigid winter night snowshoeing by yourself and wondering why on earth anyone would do this for fun.

Domotic – Smith, Klaus & White

Ekkehard Ehlers – Plays Cornelius Cardew 1

The Innocence Mission – The Lakes Of Canada

Bibio – Mr. & Mrs. Compost

Pub – Lunch

Delia&Gavin+o9+Superpitcher+Shogun

Posted by Jakub

Delia & Gavin
This 13 min. journey by DFA’s most unrated duo is a pure analong synth gem, just let it ride out. When IDM producers slowed down some of the best composers of melody started quiting o9 and Marumari we’re 2 of my favorites, this track was only available if you bought the Marumari remix CD then you had to find the files that we’re on the CD, it came with some real treats like remixes from Casino Versus Japan, Atomly, Kettel, Greg Davis, Lusine, etc. Superpitcher always comes with such fullness, his style of taking techno and stretching and pulling on it to the point its almost made for everyone and the use of bird sounds is unbelievable in this track “You Don’t Need A Weatherman”. I don’t know much about Shogun Kunitoki I just know that this song has been on my computer for a long time and I keep coming back to it, i’ve heard more by them and some of their labelmates and everything was pretty flawless, enjoy the weekend.

Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom – Black Spring

Marumari – Untitled (o9 remix)

Carsten Jost – You Don’t Need A Weatherman (Superpitcher Remix)

Shogun Kunitoki – Tropiikin Kuuma Huuma

Niklaus Troxler

Posted by Scott
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I have been searching for some time now trying to find high res versions of Troxler’s work to post. So far I’ve come up empty handed and consequently I’ve decided to just post the small versions available directly from his site. For the uninitiated, Niklaus Troxler is a Swiss born designer (and also the organizer of the Willisau Jazz Festival) who now teaches at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. Visit his site for more information and images. Very, very inspirational stuff.

Tampa Airport

Posted by Scott

DSC_1888 copy.jpg DSC_1897bb copy.jpg DSC_1895 copy.jpgSorry for the lack of posts this week (thanks Jakub for holding it down), I got back from Florida on monday and have been playing catch-up ever since. I flew Tampa -> Atlanta -> SFO so it was a rather grueling trip as I basically got there, played the show, then turned around and flew home. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show; it was great meeting you all and talking. I also want to apologize for the technical issues. I’m not quite sure what the cause was, but the power on stage was intermittently going out and dropping the sound system, luckily it only went out once during my particular set.

The visual highlight of the trip (aside from the sunset the night of the show which I didn’t have my camera around the catch) was the typography in the Tampa Airport. All of the signage was set in my personal favorite: Trade Gothic LT Std Bold Extended (and look at that logo!). Unfortunately, I dropped my D80 before the trip somewhat crippling it so I wasn’t able to get very good shots. I took a ton and most came out blurry or underexposed. Thankfully, Nikon has a great repair program (which I’ve used many times in the past) which is relatively cheap and quick. So I’ll just have to find a week or so when I can do without my camera and send it in. Or just upgrade…. But given that I just made another major upgrade (more on that tomorrow), I think I need to hold off a while longer on getting a new DLSR.

On a side note: A design student at the show gave me his card (the one with bears on it). I said I’d check the site but when I got home I couldn’t find the card anywhere. If you gave that to me, please drop me the link so I can check it.

Geist+DeVotchka+Panda Bear+Mt. Sims

Posted by Jakub

GeistMorgan Geist is half of Metro Area and just put out a proper LP and got an amazing remix from Carl Craig which I wanted to post but I had to post this single “Detroit” with Junior Boys lead man Jeremy Greenspan because it makes me want to put on the old Junior Boys albums on. I’m not sure if anyone has seen the Gears Of War 2 commercial but the licensed track by DeVotchka is really good kinda reminds me of Beirut a little. There might be a new Panda Bear (Animal Collective band member) album in the works, here’s a new track that I found looking for Cousin Cole which i’ll post later in the week. Has anyone heard of Mount Sims? its electro to say the least but damn good, listen for yourself.

Morgan Geist – Detroit (feat. Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys)

DeVotchka – How It Ends

Panda Bear – Untitled

Mount Sims – No Yellow Lines

Alvin Lustig

Posted by Jakub

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Alvin Lustig contributions to the design of books and book jackets, magazines, interiors, and textiles as well as his teachings would have made him a credible candidate for the AIGA Lifetime Achievement award when he was alive. By the time he died at the age of forty in 1955, he had already introduced principles of Modern art to graphic design that have had a long-term influence on contemporary practice. He was in the vanguard of a relatively small group who fervently, indeed religiously, believed in the curative power of good design when applied to all aspects of American life. He was a generalist, and yet in the specific media in which he excelled he established standards that are viable today. If one were to reconstruct, based on photographs, Lustig’s 1949 exhibition at The Composing Room Gallery in New York, the exhibits on view and the installation would be remarkably fresh, particularly in terms of the current trends in art-based imagery.

Update: I really can’t find larger images of this work so I put 2 in each image which doesn’t give them justice, please visit here.

Telefon Tel Aviv

Posted by Jakub

Telefon Tel Aviv - NewTTAJanuary 20th 2009 I really urge you to pick up the new Telefon Tel Aviv record, these 2 from New Orleans/Chicago have given B-Pitch Control a real gift of a record. The record is called “Immolate Yourself” if you live in the EU i think it came out already on Monday. If you haven’t heard the first single off of the record I posted it a little over a month ago here. If you have the chance today to listen to each track all the way thru you should, they’re such dynamic musicians without a dull moment. I also posted a track from 2 older records “Fahrenheit Fair Enough” which I can’t find for less than 35 USD but i’m sure it’s on iTunes and “Map Of What Is Effortless“.

Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself

Telefon Tel Aviv – Fahrenheit Fair Enough

Telefon Tel Aviv – The Birds

Telefon Tel Aviv – My Week Beats Your Year