I don’t often write about Greek bands and for good reason. If there is one thing one can write about the rock underground in Greece is that it is unpredictable. Its rare highs exceptional, its frequent lows painful and the uncertainty surrounding the future of a band, person or even a release a dire constant, in this country devoid of the necessary cultural and economic foundations to support musicians (and, arguably, artists in general), unless they fall in that sonically and æsthetically narrow slice that spans everything between contemporary greek-kitsch and the multitude of offsprings of the archetypal oriental-meets-byzantine ‘folk’.
In the past decade I’ve followed, albeit from a certain safe distance, this hellenic rock underground; defiant, full of energy and with the appearance of Spinalonga Records in 2005 and several other projects like it in the years that followed — some not-for-profit, others commercial — organised, promoted, somewhat more efficient that what you’d expect from any ‘underground’ music scene.
Even in the rose-tinted 2000s, few bands ever managed to survive the Greek cultural decay (one that preceded the economic and political decay we live in), few artists went on to bigger and greater things and the good (and few amazing!) releases that came out were often followed by the harrowing silence of a breakup, leaving the audience stymied and disappointed. Cube, while never in the spotlight, at times verging on the border of dissolution, have maintained a constant understated presence that transcended the changing landscapes of its members and tastes.
Yet despite their perseverance, there was little on the record about their contribution to rock. Apart from a few bootlegs and ‘fan’ videos of live performances online, the last thing reminding the world of Cube was their 2002 EP, a release not representative of their evolving æsthetic, skill, maturity or, for that matter, lineup and a few tracks in diy, limited release, such as Spinalonga’s own ‘In the Junkyard’ among others.
In one of the latest commits, Ubuntu Mono, the monospace variant of the Ubuntu font that has recently been included in the distribution, was added to the repositories.
Ubuntu Mono is a relatively nice looking monospace font that borrows quite a lot from Consolas, but adds its own distinctive touches that make it fit better with the Ubuntu font family. I have been a member of the beta testing group and have seen it for a while now, but I never quite found the time to properly look into it.
Sadly, while the roman script looks great already, the Greek script suffers from some poor design decisions. Chief among them is Gamma (the capital gamma) which was clearly designed by someone totally unfamiliar with the Greek language and script. Gamma in Ubuntu Mono features a bottom serif that is totally distorting the perception of the character. It is unlike any other modern font I’ve ever seen and I feel is doing Ubuntu Mono a disservice (it has certainly rendered the font unusable by me as long as it looks this bad).
In an effort to remedy this, I have opened a bug in Launchpad, Ubuntu’s bug reporting system. You can find the bug, #867577, here. If you have a Launchpad account, use Ubuntu (and/or the fonts) and would like to see Ubuntu Mono fixed for Greek please subscribe, add your comment and/or contact those responsible to help them realise how their effort is being ruined by a few badly designed characters.
In the same vain as Helvetica, but seemingly more of an ‘indie’ endeavour, this Kickstarter-funded movie about Linotype, the almost lost art of traditional typesetting and the eponymous machine is almost done. Check out the trailer below, or visit their site. It may be interesting to those loving typography.
You may have heard of him. No? Well, sc**w you! Because, err, you should.
Tim Schafer’s video mini autobiography for Gamespot. Must see for all those that have enjoyed any/all of Day of the Tentacle, the original two Monkey Island games, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango or his later creations at Double Fine Productions.
If only all shorts were as well directed, captivating and sublime as this one! Loved it.
Two days of listening to Bon Iver (the new album) by Justin Vernon’s synonymous band. Part of me admires this guy for evolving, for moving on and not capitalising on what he achieved with ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ three years ago. Yet another part of me is sad; all that made “For Emma” the jewel it is, is all but gone from this album: the emotion, the pain, the pure, unadulterated sound and simplicity of Vernon’s voice + his acoustic guitar. Without arrangements, without electronics and fx*, without guest musicians or overengineered sonic landscapes. That’s where ‘Bon Iver’ is different to its predecessor and so much like other contemporary indie/folk albums: there may be some glimpses, sporadic moments of brilliance that reminded me why I liked the band in the first place, but as a whole it’s an average album. But then again, it is clear to me that ‘For Emma’ was the exception, not only because of how it was produced (the product of a three month seclusion at a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin), but also because of the ripple it created exactly because it was so authentic yet so different to everything else that made it stand out. In that respect ‘Bon Iver’ is nowhere near ‘For Emma’ territory, but still an album that showcases Vernon’s songwriting ability and unique voice.
* Ok, there is some autotune in use in For Emma..But it really doesn’t detract from the statement above.
It’s nine years since Brett Garsed’s last solo album, Big Sky. And while his output has more or less declined in volume this past decade, his latest album, Dark Matter is a great example of contemporary Rock Fusion, along the lines of Big Sky as well as many of his numerous appearances and collaborations.
Although I only got the album a few hours ago, I have found it to be particularly interesting in that it literally ‘fuses’ (pun intended!) several familiar — at least to me — related styles: Vintage Satch, Liquid Tension Experiment, touches of Holdsworth, Fripp, Metheny and Shawn Lane.
The tracks are more upbeat and energetic than those found in Big Sky; jazzier at times, heavier in others, with a distinct bent on fusion. I particularly enjoyed Avoid the Void, Dark Matter and Enigma, although I cannot say that any of the other tracks were disappointing.
Dark Matter may be an interesting album, yet it is somewhat typical of the genre, which has been largely stagnant for years. It may lack the exceptional feel one finds at times in Big Sky — there are no tracks like Trinity or Drowning, for example — but includes many tracks with more uplifting, polished and — I might argue — technical deliveries of interesting compositions and improvisations that lean heavily on Garsed’s signature technique and sound.
For those enjoying rock fusion, progressive rock and virtuoso guitar instrumentals this is definitely an album worth getting and listening to. Those more familiar with Garsed’s competence and compositional skills (and more demanding of their music) may have expected a bit more.
In 2008 Canon released the EOS 5D Mark II. This was the successor to the synonymous (Mark I) camera that made full-frame DSLRs accessible to people unwilling to spend a small fortune to get one — the EOS 1Ds usually costs around $8,000 when a new revision of it is released.
But it was also the beginning of a revolution that went well beyond still photography, redefining an ‘art’ that was, until then, totally barred to mere mortals; a revolution in cinematography. 5D Mark II, and a year later 7D, featured HD video recording capabilities with quality that rivalled that of high-end professional digital camcorders. Canon had a winner in their hands, even though, by their own admission, they never meant to create a tool for cinematographers, but allow photojournalists to take short videos. Many of the limitations of the 5D Mark II were removed by community firmware, such as Magic Lantern and Canon itself paid some more attention to later versions of the official firmware as well as the 7D.
An increasing number of (largely independent) cinematographers choose DSLRs to shoot shorts or complement the production of features. They’ve got the flexibility, the lenses, the features and the quality. Sure, there are still missing features and you wouldn’t expect a 5D Mark II to replace RED or the higher-end cameras out there, but for stuff that remain within the limits of HD they’ll do just fine — with superb results. The increased power of software in post (for syncing, grading, etc.) largely negates them.
The HDSLR (a misnomer that has somehow prevailed since 5D Mark II appeared in 2008) revolution is a bottom-up phenomenon; Canon never intended or expected it to happen. But the company is not standing idly by. In 2010 they commissioned a collaborative film contest titled ‘The Story Beyond the Still’, whereby different people collaborated by filming/producing a single chapter in a six chapter story. The winners were picked by a commercial Los Angeles-based director, Vincent Laforet, the film was edited and the final cut appeared in the famous Sundance Film Festival (and, of course, Vimeo) in January 2011. You can watch the final, complete film here (or below); despite the fact that the characters are played by different actors in each chapter, that they were completely shot using Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 7D cameras, despite the fact that this is not a high-budget production, that it is the result of a collaborating community and not the work or vision of a single person, makes it — at least in my eyes — a unique achievement.
But it is much more than that; it is a prime example of how technology is making moviemaking accessible to a much larger number of people. We live at a time where anyone can cheaply create professionally looking films on a shoestring budget, distribute them for free on a website like Vimeo. Films that are artistic expressions in the truest sense, totally unrelated to the laws of the market, totally untouched by commercial concerns of profit, censorship or the star system. Films that compete on those classic values that made early cinema so intriguing, rather than the annoying techdemo exhibitions that define modern Hollywood.
Beyond The Still is not such a film. It is by no means a masterpiece, it doesn’t try to be and it probably couldn’t ever be one. It is, however, a fantastic example of what is possible with modern, accessible technology, love for film making and a collaborative spirit. It is proof that in 2011 independent film makers have little to be jealous of their commercial counterpartsm especially when it comes to the most fundamental aspects of film making: cameras, editing and distribution. I, for one, am looking forward to a world with more independent films, of higher production quality and fewer ‘stars’. Vimeo, and apparently Canon, seem to agree — even if their immediate goal fully remains within the realm of profitability.
You can watch the 38 minute film below.