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RAW Sex Appeal

Certain views of Apple’s now shipping Apeture digital photo management application show it to be something of an iPhoto for professionals, like an iApp on steroids. Still, as many are prone to wild "paradigm shift" speculation in the software industry, there are more than a few willing snark hunters out there looking to set their sights on a long anticipated Photoshop killer. I have not used the program myself, so I can’t point to a clear winner in such a shoot-out, but I think it’s fair to say from a PR view that Adobe isn’t flinching… just yet.

"Whenever there are other solutions popping up, it is a sign that there is a lot of change going on and that everyone needs to keep innovating to solve those problems," said Kevin Connor, Adobe’s director of digital imaging product management: "Apple is recognizing some of the same things that we are – there are some problems for photographers that are not fully solved yet."

It would appear then that Adobe views Apeture more as a competitor to Bridge, the workflow solution they’ve built into Adobe Creative Suite, and not Photoshop. If that’s really the case, then Adobe may have to add a few items to their white board before the next release (like those guys could ever call it day). While I like Bridge, or more accurately want to like Bridge, it seems to be missing in Apeture’s RAW sex appeal (pun intended). How I’ve been able to use Bridge thus far has really been a matter of practicality. As a creative repository or starting point, it’s a more obvious replacement for Extensis Porfolio than anything else. The added advantage of VersionCue, a CVS-like versioning layer that allows designers and artists to work more like developers, is a welcomed addition, but one I’ve only been able to use with mixed results. I can use it, and will continue to do so, but if a new alternative comes around that promises to be better, I’ll stop my thoughts at one and a half.

This wouldn’t be such a task for Adobe had they polished off their program just a tad bit better and marketed it a little more cleverly. I believe Bridge may be a great idea in the making, but I wonder how many artists who’ve purchased Adobe Creative Suite simply don’t know what it is or how to use it. That is a shame too, since there’s so much potential for use. Considering that it provides its own dialogue box, evening out some of the GUI difference between Mac and Windows, plus the fact that it delivers some of the most tightly integrated feature sets ever seen across programs, it’s pretty clear that Adobe really intended the Creative Suite to be a platform in itself, not just a bundle to justify pricing.

But even with all that, Adobe Bridge still doesn’t make me want to go out and buy a thousand dollar camera to use it. Apeture, on the other hand, does. Plus, it promises to do some of the things which have proven in Bridge to be somewhat kludgey.

I’ll reserve my judgment, though, until I get my hands on Apeture (and that thousand dollar camera). I might even wait for Bridge 2.0.


Black Acetate

John Cale - Black Acetate
iconIt seems like only yesterday I was gushing over John Cale’s outstanding album, Hobosapiens. So it was with a bit of a surprise that I saw his latest musical delicacy, Black Acetate, on iTunes just a safe year apart. What does one better, though, is the fact that the approach with this album, while so very different from the experimental loops and drumbeats of the first, unconventionally stays on top with its own ferocity. Though lacking in any overt political overtones, Black Acetate is the album I’ve been hoping for from the musician. Calling back to a time when he was frighteningly fond of leather, Cale successfully marries his most base and guttural instincts as a composer to craft an album of catchy punk/pop melodies, sans the popular stench of, say, Good Charlotte. In short, there’s a lot more guitar, less production layers, but absolutely no sacrifice in atmosphere.

Eschewing my own instinct to be cute, I’ll admit I was going to write this entire piece comparing Black Acetate to the Dandy Warhols’ latest offering, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. But why the hell bother? Compared to Cale, they’re just a bunch of posers, shamefully lifting the essence of his real-life acquaintance for their own namesake. And their fourth offering to date is easily less gratifying then the music veteran’s, like, umpteen-millionth record. Yes, this is finally a John Cale album you can listen to in your car. So look out Courtney Taylor Taylor. You’ve just had your ass handed to you by a 63 year old.

As if mockingly predicting this feat, Cale opens the album with a classic yet underused technique to disarm the listener. The first song, Outta the Bag, hits it up full falsetto, instantly purging any images of a hoity-toity art demigod driving the helm. From there the album easily shifts into the Euro-traveling romance of For a Ride. The mood changes somewhat abruptly with the avante garde antics of Brotherman, but to good effect. As we’re reminded by the Welsh (some would argue) genius during the track’s opening, “I write reams of this shit everyday.” The song then builds up to a tense fever pitch, reminding the listener that this is, after all, a John Cale record. Satisfied, with it’s slow tempo and toy carousel rings, holds a powerful and moving message of hope, and shows that sometimes emotion is given better to ambiguity.

It will remind us
Of what’s inside us
How closely things we feel
Will touch and make us whole
It may surprise us in the end

And You’ll be wondering at it
I’ll be standing by
You’ll be smiling at it
And I’ll be wondering why

Will it stand the test of time?
It will stand the test of time
It will stand the test of time

Featuring a fittingly opposite but complementary female voice, Gravel Drive echoes a serene, almost chapel-like ambiance. Similarly haunting is the Southern marsh delivery of In a Flood , which poignantly places the subject somewhere “down in Mississippi.” Building back momentum, we’re given Hush, a sexy funk-tronic number worthy of early Prince. It’s definitely more libido than I’ve ever heard from Cale, which causes me to wonder why he’s waited well into middle age to express that particular part of him.

The second side of the album seems to repeat the formula of the first and gives us the clearly radio-intended Perfect. It’s a catchy, non-confrontational number, and practically begging to be used in some sophisticated-but-cool television marketing campaign. (Hey, that never hurt Iggy.) From there, we practically bleed right into the true rock form of Sold-Motel. With it’s edgy guitar riff and screeching solo, it shows up any thought of Cale being out of touch. As if there were still any need to squash that premise, we’re given Woman, a hotly back-beated mix with heavy guitars and a Willem De Kooning styled attitude. Closing out the disc are Wasteland and Turn the Lights On, two rock songs that could easily be mistaken for contemporary David Bowie were Cale’s voice not so readily distinct.

All in all, I’d say this solidifies what I think is one of the most envious careers in all of rock history. Not only is John Cale guarunteed a position as one of the most important pioneers in modern music, he also has the distinction of never selling out in his solo career, and—perhaps most importatly—he’s never turned dull in the process.


Mr. Please Please Feed Me Himself

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce to you…

rock_cole.png

The haaaardest workin’ baby in show business. Old King Cole. The Pied Piper of Diaper. The Swami of Pajami. The Godchild of Soul. Mr. Please Please Feed Me himself, in his very own music video. Prepare yourself to be entertained by sights and sounds no ordinary baby could perform—well, at least on one foot.

Enjoy.

Updated 02/22/2006: Now serving at YouTube.


culture, journal, music

Comments Off on Top Ten Albums of My Time

Top Ten Albums of My Time

WXPN recently took a break from their normal broadcasting to present the 885 greatest albums of all time, which ended yesterday with the Beatles’ legendary Abbey Road taking top honors. Rather than finding fault with a list put together by listeners (which I can’t do anyway), I think I’ll just document my own. To that end, here is a list of the top ten albums from my own 32 years worth of time. These are albums that became important to me at one time or another and still hold much of their original power.

And unlike some of the nanzy-panzy artists on XPN’s list, I will put them in hierarchal order (Hack!! Cough! Adam Duritz.).

Today, Ziggy is not necessarily even my favorite Bowie album, which is alternately either Low or Lodger, but in terms of sheer impact, I have to give it credit for being the bomb that exploded open my soul as a teenager. Honorable mention should also go to the Pixies’ Trompe Le Monde, Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces, and whoever else I’m going to come across on my iPod and regret not adding.


Bibleman

I’m not to the point of writing such a lengthy and personal post such as the Substitute’s concerning the plight of contemporary Christian culture, but a small mentioning of a thing I saw this weekend cannot be helped. In fact, as my recent lack of enthusiasm for all things blog plays itself out, I might just take up writing exclusively about trivial things my wife and I find mildly amusing on satellite TV.

In this case, the amusement came at the expense of Bibleman. As best I can tell, this is a super-hero whose only reason to exist is to provide concrete, if not highly comical, evidence that a ten year culture war has taken place. Unbeknownst to him, though, he’s the main casualty.

Played in this episode by Willie Aames of Charles in Charge and Celebrity Fit Club fame (he’s since been replaced by a younger actor), the show involved Bibleman confronting his own friends (or what anyone else would consider enemies) with biblical scripture as if it were some kind of antidote to a vaguely written notion about them returning to their “old ways.”

Sound funny? Well, you obviously haven’t seen five minutes of it yet. Because it’s absolutely hilarious, and more than a little sad. Let’s not forget, there’s also Biblegirl, a Bible cave, and some over-the-top villains like…(Dunt Dunt Dunnn!) the Wacky Protester. I can only imagine his main super power—an inhuman resistance to the awesome nature of George W. Bush. Oh, the humanity.

The tackiness has its own life force, but a true appreciation for this case study of child indoctrination comes from the little details that get all mangled up in translation from their “secular” pop culture couterparts. Case in point: Even though Batman doesn’t have any real superhuman powers, his modus operandi isn’t exactly beating people over the head with endless talk of his advanced knowledge of bats, is it? Not so with Bibleman. He wears a well-cut purple foam suit for the sole purpose of biblically berating people of opposing world-views. And he does it like a broken record.

As one would expect of endless sanctimony repeated over and over, it’s not like any of it can be absorbed. As soon as he chimes in for the sixth time with, “Well, you know what Ecclesiastes 3:12-15 says about vanity, Ted?” its like all that can be heard are words. Certainly not the Word of God, as if that could seriously be what anyone intended. Actually, if you’ve made it this far in the show without converting to atheism, you should get a T-shirt or something for your time. Or you might want to examine whatever made you put such a high value on crap. But I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re swimming in the aquarium and only finding algae to eat. Any of the same kind will do.

Still, I have to wonder, though, could The Incredible Shakespearean take him?


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