Jan Grefstad’s Hollywood Cinema (its full title, I don’t know who Jan Grefstad is) is a charmingly untouched cinema on Avondale’s main street. Most of Auckland suburban cinemas have long since been demolished, re-purposed, or remodeled into high-class boutique cinemas, but the Hollywood has remained more or less untouched. I think the seats are modern, but the layout in exactly how I remember in the old cinemas – a “circle” balcony above a larger area for the stalls.
The Hollywood’s main claim to fame is its huge Wurlitzer theatre organ, a fantastic beast of a thing. The pipes are hidden in rooms behind the screen, and it is capable of all sorts of fantastic sounds – from bells to drum rolls. It can also remotely play the piano on the other side of the stage. The best part is that the whole console is on an elevator, raising up out of the stage with the organist when needed.
Today I went along to see the Wurlitzer being played by a professional organist accompanying Charlie Chaplin’s silent film, The Gold Rush. The organ was put to good use, providing wall to wall music in every scene of this entertaining film. It is not something I would do all the time (I am not quite in the target demographic just yet) but it was the perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Animoog is a really cool synthesizer emulator for the iPad that simulates the electronics of the old analogue synths that ruled the 70s before digital came along and ruined everything. The interface is a little daunting but it comes will a bunch of useful presets, and the UI encourages exploration with lots of knobs to twiddle and hidden panels to discover.
The awful secret I have discovered is that if you make an interesting enough sound (which isn’t hard to do) then any collection of notes sounds good. At the moment I am sitting on my pouch in the shade recreating the Blade Runner soundtrack by pressing random keys. That Vangelis was a terrible hack!
Unexpectedly because I wasn’t planning on going, but a friend had to pull out and I bought her ticket. That was also unexpected, because I don’t really dig the Foo Fighters.
I mean, I think they are OK. Acceptable. Competent. But lacking in that spark that I look for in a rock band.
The weather was not good, it had rained all afternoon and Western Springs Raceway was already soggy when we turned up so we staked a spot on the terraces and watched the support acts. We missed local heroes, Cairo Knife Fight, a band I know nothing about except that bFM name checks them constantly but never actually plays their tracks.
The second support act was Fucked Up – a canadian punk/death metal outfit who should have been terrible but come over very well. The lead singer left the stage and spent most of the set wandering around the crowd hugging people and occasionally drinking their beer between verses.
Next came the highlight of the evening for me – Tenacious D. For a joke band they did a tight set and Jack Black is genuinely funny on stage.
Finally, the Foo Fighters. Although they are not my favorite band, you have to respect a group that are prepared to play for almost 3 hours, even if 20 minutes of that was Dave Grohl nattering to the crowd. They played all their hits (after 17 years they have had quite a few) and seemed pleased to be here. The crowd loved it and even the rain let off to let them play. I can understand why Grohl is so popular, he comes across as a sincere and decent person. In my book that is a strike against him as a rocker, but I seem to be outnumbered.
Despite the rain I had a great time at the Foo Fighters. Not enough to buy their music, but I certainly got my money’s worth.
I don’t usually keep a lot of files around. When I get a new computer I don’t tend to copy all my documents across – anything I haven’t looked at for a couple of months is probably not worth the fraction of a millimetre it takes up on the platter. On the other hand, some things I can never bring myself to delete. Here is something I rediscovered the other day:
This is one of the first MODs I wrote back on the Amiga. I never had a sampler or a very large collection of instruments, but I loved mucking around with MED trying to get a pleasant sound out of the 4 channel 8-bit sound. It is often said that there is a lot of crossover between programming and music, and the soundtracker clones of the 90s made that explicit which is possibly why I enjoyed it so much. Now days I can fire up GarageBand any time I want with any number of sampled instruments. I could say that I regret not having the time to produce music as an adult but the truth is that the inspiration isn’t there any more – my interests have moved in other directions.
Although none of my MODs ever sounded anything like as good as the music from the games and demos of the time, I am still pretty pleased with this one. It must date from form 6 (I was 16) which makes it vintage 1991. Listen to the sound of 20 years ago…
I note that Benoît Mandelbrot has died, this is something that I find saddens me more than it should. I never met the guy or actually read any of his works directly, only popular secondhand descriptions. But I suspect that I am not alone among my peers in having spent hours making programs to plot his set and then hours waiting for the damn thing to render.
Mandelbrot had the good fortune to publish his famous book just as bitmapped computer displays were becoming common in even cheep home computers. Suddenly anyone with a few hundred dollars and a rainy weekend could have a cutting-edge mathematical shape appear sloooowly line-by-line on their TV screens. And then they could select part of that image and zoom in. And zoom in again. And again. Forever, until they got bored or their computer ran out of floating-point precision. Nobody knew what it meant, but it seemed like magic.
Anyway, this is mainly an excuse to post Jonathan Coulton’s great song. It is a shame that the second verse is now out of date: