Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jose Travieso The Illusionist

Some artists simply like to embrace a particular style of music and focus at it. A few can try different music styles because frankly, it is very hard. Jose Travieso is an Spanish musician who can undoubtedly write music in a whole diverse range of styles: classical, jazz, prog rock, avant-guarde, post-modern and metal. Jose is a very accomplished guitar player ( if you asked him, he will never admit it ), and he is - like my self- a big fan of technical thrash metal. He wrote, played and recorded one of the best tech thrash metal albums I am aware of: it is called Human and his band is called Cautiva. Cautiva is a modern product of our beloved thrash metal, with colors from Jose experience with music. Well, Cautiva's Human, which I proudly have an autographed hard copy, makes bands like Mekong Delta sounding like a child's play.

Jose happens to be a quite talented pianist, whose expertise is on the modern jazz  and modern classical while at the same time he's got some bounds with the 19th century with its Romanticism . In 2011 he finally recorded his opus, which was titled the "The Illusionist" which is a concert that takes place in New York, but the whole thing sounds as if we were travelling between time while he touches the keys.

As much diverse as going from chaotic dissonance, Travieso also writes beautiful pieces evoking Debussy, while he can easily presents us minimalism as if a magician were taking a bunny off his hat.

And in the end everything has an ethereal, oniric atmosphere and nothing is what it seems after all.

And it is free for everybody who wants to listen at :

http://www.josetravieso.org/



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Favorite bass players ( Thank You tube )


John Myung



Jaco Pastorious



 Lars K Norberg


Steve Harris


Chris Squire


Jimmy Bain


Jimmy Jonhson


Billy Sheehan


Ray Shulman


Joe DiBiasi


Tony Levin




Geddy Lee



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

J.M DeMatteis Brooklyn Dreams

In the late 80s, when I was 16 or 17 - cannot remember actually- I read one of the best comics ever written, in my opinion of course: Moonshadow, written by the extraordinary author J.M DeMatteis, which also wrote many of my favorite Super Hero comics in his partnership with Keith Giffen and their monumental Justice League.

Moonshadow is a story about a kid and his transcendence to a man or a story of awakening. In 1994 J.M DeMatteis wrote "Brooklyn Dreams" that deals with the same subject but with more personal flavor: it is a story of his 17-18 years, told by the main character a few years older.

Please read this review here posted in the Amazon web site. This review is so good and real that it would still be  completely decent and honest even if written by the author him self.

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of humor, spirit & autobiography!, June 5, 2003
By  William Timothy Lukeman - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)  
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Brooklyn Dreams (Paperback)
J. M. DeMatteis' wonderful series about being a confused, angry, yearning teenager in the late 60s is finally available in one volume, and it's long overdue! Anyone who came of age in those years will recognize the emotions & situations, sometimes all too closely & accurately for comfort. And if it did nothing more than recall those times, as it does in such perfect & incisive detail, the story would be a thorough success.
But as the narrator reminds us, "This is a story about God."
The voice of an adult Carl Vincent (or Vincent Carl) Santini -- don't worry, that's all explained -- provides the running commentary as we observe & enter into the troubled, searching life of our young protagonist, struggling to express himself, struggling to understand himself & the Universe, searching for Something long before he's consciously aware of it.
DeMatteis' prose is deceptively casual & easy-going, drawing the reader in as a confidante, but it's also insightful & honest. He cares passionately about the story he's sharing with us & that passion comes through. At the same time, his sense of humor prevents his story from ever becoming pretentious.
The powerful artwork of Glenn Barr brings this story to vivid life, changing to suit the tones of the story, ranging from cartoony to photo-realistic, often in the same panel. You'll pause & linger over many a page for the illustrations as much as for the words.
Quite a few writers are mentioned in the course of this story, all the usual suspects on the Road to Self-Discovery & Meaning -- Hesse, Huxley, Dostoyevsky, etc. Add DeMatteis to their company & get a copy of this superb book. I can't recommend it highly enough!


If the above text did not convince you to grab a copy of Brooklyn Dreams, well, check this picture:







It is my amazing copy of this book.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Song of The Black Sword

I have been always a fan of Michael Moorcock,  even before I actually read his work. I had known for ages he had written Elric books and was such a great mind and author. He is actually a real great person as well. One of the most sharp, bright critics of our time and one of the most prodigious imaginations I ever encountered.

I am reading the Elric Omnibus "Song Of The Black Sword". But back in 2001 it was the first time I read him, just before meeting my future wife, I acquired a mass trade paper back of Elric Of Melbinoné which I read and loved it, but I actually did not buy the other books. Shame on me, this last year I became addicted into his works through the phenomenal "Nomad Of The Timestreams", so I bought a few of his books.

Hawkmoon, Von Bek, Elric, etc. I am a constant poster at his web site, linked above and at the left of this site.

I re-read Elric Of Melniboné and I found out in the preface that Moorcock him self feels that Elric is one of his most dear creations because the author simply most identifies to him. Elric is a a king of an old cast of Kings. He is the ruler of Melniboné, which is a reign where people brags about their superiority over the barbaric world of the so-called Young Kingdoms. Elric, however, is tempted by his character, his ethics, his good soul, to change the world he sees by applying the sense of justice he so close follows. Of course, he pays a price.  Moorcock calls his saga a tragedy and I may simply concur.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Amber series

Roger Zelazny "Lord Of Light" is certainly some of the best fiction ever written. Its incomparable setting in a far future where a Hindu pantheon God-like group of ancient spatial explorers create an utopia and live in their  "heaven"  while they experiment with recreating mankind on their will, makes it unique.

So, it was logical that I would love the Amber series, right ? No, because I was not really getting the point. I read books 1 and 2, e.g "Nine Princes in Amber" and "The Guns Of Avalon" and found them good, not worth the hype. But then I read "The Sign Of The Unicorn", finally, with proper light and I gotta say I am enjoying this book very much. Corwin is a anti-hero, a non typical fantasy character, a la Elric, as well most of the characters in the book.  I am really getting thrilled by the idea of these shadows mirroring Amber, the supposed "only real world" from where all shadows derive. So, Books 1 and 2 were not just GOOD, they are really really GOOD. Call me stupid for not grasping that.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jack Vance and RWS



I want to praise James Hollbrook Vance, aka Jack Vance. I am finally reading "The Tales From Dying Earth", after wanting to read for around 20 years, it was not translated to Portuguese, except the tale "Mazirian The Magician" -  I must say that  has been my all time favorite story-  and it might turn to be my all time favorite book and I am just on tale 3 of the first book.










I just received from Chris Rodler ( Leger DeMain, Razor Wire Shrine, etc ) two incredible fusion technical prog rock metal cds of his band   Razor Wire Shrine :

These make Spastic Ink/Ron Jarzombek childish. The Rodlers are probably two of the best prog rock and metal musicians in USA and yet they are quite humble.

Chris is a modern version of Fripp with tons of Jim Matheos insights.

Brett Rodler, is  polirhythm  master and crazy tempo addicted. The only guy in USA that can rival with him is Bob Jarzombek.

Mike Ohm solos here and there quite well, but I think the main focus are the Rodlers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Manilla Road "Open The Gates"

Released in the 80s, this album still today is as astonishing and impressive as when it was released. The band creates a journey to a magik world and does it creating very heavy, epic and dark music. By mixing old prog rock like Tull and Rush, hard rock like UFO with energizing metal a la Judas Priest and Saxon and immersing everything in an Arthurian atmosphere, Manilla Road simply created a classic.

The thundering opening "Metal Storm" simply blows up everything in your block. The next, "Open The Gates" slows down the tempo but smashes everything with a killing heavy guitar riff. Then you are left to the amazing piece of art called "Astronomica". My favorite song on this album is "The Fires Of Mars", whose main riff is like a dark lament from a dying bard. I had the LP, the cd changes a little bit the order of the songs as in the past two songs were in an EP.

I would not call this power metal, because it is different from anything in this genre. One is not supposed to worship metal to like it, like with a Manowar album, but one is faded to love metal after listening to this.

Mark Shelton crafts lyrics based on Arthurian myths and dark texts from ancient mythology while sings with rage and beauty and plays intricate guitar riffs and atomizing solos. Randy Fox is probably the best metal drummer to come from the 80s Scott Park delivers thunderous viking bass lines.

A true metal classic, one of the rare gems from 80s American Metal.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Michael Moorcock Warlord Of The Air

Moorcock tells this story in an alternative future, by the eyes of a typical soldier of the British Empire who is sent to an alternative future where the British Empire seems to have created an utopia. At least in the main character's eyes.

The British Empire after years without going to war ( the technology is not as advanced as it was back in our actual 1973) which leads to apparent economical and social advances. We will know later that the Empire is in fact lying in fragile foundations.

There are billions of people still starving and living in poverty while a few live happily enjoying the advances of science and all modern society goods. This book treats an universal theme, that is why it is so compelling and impressive. One can change history events but the very nature of man will remain "evil".

Look at the world these days, transpose the ideals presented here and realize Morcoock makes a portrait of our very own world. While some will be happy celebrating the new i-pad, downloading digital content for a few dollars, watching 3-D films, eating yogurt ice-cream ( because Oprah said it was healthier) others will still work for 14 hours to produce a consumer good for the rich. Yet this person will earn at best, a full plate of food.

This book is rather political in a way that the author shares his political views but he also succeeds describing a fantastic world. Essentially, a society lacking elements like: poverty, exploration, some having better lives than others, social discrepancies, diseases, plagues, does not exist in reality. Well, that is why we call it utopia.

I personally agree in all terms with Moorcock: he does not say that armed revolution is the way to change, in fact, it concludes pessimistically presenting a single fact: all forms of riots lead to chaos and death of several innocent lives.

The "steampunk" and "dieselpunk" aspects of this book make it more impressive and interesting. The dirigibles populating the world skies, the Victorian and Edwardian way of life almost intact after 70 years yet that society can have access to the goods of the technology after those years.

Moorcock's style is rather elegant, precise. His technological descriptions expose details when necessary: he does not waste time abusing of it to simply show erudition.

To me a great book is one that you cannot discern between reality while reading it is hard to stop reading. This was "Warlord Of The Air" for me.

Incredible, radical, fantastic and innovative. Five stars are few for rating it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Meshuggah Koloss

As many reviews at Amazon note ( and I have to agree with all of them ), at this time Meshuggah has returned to their 90s tech-thrash roots, when they've released two ultra heavy post-apocalyptic poli-rhythms based efforts: Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere, perhaps two of the finest metal albums ever released. I simply love every album of them released in 2000s, specially Obzen, which already hinted the direction they would follow, but Koloss is my favorite Meshuggah since Chaosphere...

Total brutal, insane and quite extreme metal. A MetallicA with brains put on acid. Some of the most awesome metal riffs ever written. At the same time, Meshuggah is able to reach a contemplative state, something almost like a mantra, something that grabs your mind and soul and takes you somewhere inside your self.

And it is pure metal. That is perhaps my favorite part...

Grandfathers

You know. When Ray Bradbury, Will Eisner or Dennis Ritchie died, it was not hard to write about them. I tried to make homages. In my own way...

However, I find it too hard to write about my grandparents who have left us a few years ago.

The father of my father, my grandfather was called Manoel. He was a pragmatic man, quite capable of making computations in his head. I remember when he calculated easily how many seconds a whole year had. He told me everybody used to tell him he should have been an Engineer, something he may have passed onto my father who passed onto me, who became an Engineer. When I remember him, I like to think about large dinner tables, full of food and drinks, smiles and wiseness.

He used to take me and my brothers to know the countryside of Ribeirao Preto. He knew practically everybody there. He used to be a pork farmer, but had to stop this activity because the law did not allow him to raise pigs so close to the town. I remember one day he took us to take care of some of his cows, which are to this day, something quite unforgettable.  My grandfather was also  an artist: played guitar and was great at clay sculpturing. So I like to think about him.

The father of my mother, Rui, was a long time book lover and technology enthusiast. He was a photographer, knew all sort of mind tricks like hypnotism. He was an Officer at the Brazilian IRS ( taxes, money etc), still, I think he would rather like to be called an artist. My best fond memories of him are when he was having some beers before Christmas parties and used to tell my brother and I a big deal of his stories. My uncle Paulo tells me that some of these stories were invented. To be fully honest I prefer to believe in them as real.

He was fond of rock music, and I remember when we just organized my uncle Cleido's LPs or when we repaired part of the ceiling in one of the houses he has lived. He just had this wise look, something that would calm you down by a mere look of his eyes. Sometimes he used to tell me he would pick me up at the school in a helicopter. I spent hours trying to find his helicopter in the skies. So I like to think about him.

They both loved their grandchildren.  I like to think that a great part of the best from me came from them as well as from my parents and grandmothers.

This post is dedicated to my greatest heroes: my parents.

Friday, May 04, 2012

ANSI C/C++ fopen behavior

When working with files, although we use C++, we rely on old C file stream processing functions that are under the header <cstdio> on your favorite compiler.

I interface PC applications with hardware and my firmware colleague was telling me that my program that grabs data from the hardware ( the data was supposed to represent a binary file sent by the hardware ) was having a weird behavior. Every 0x0D char was preceded by another 0x0D. I went back check to the low level protocol, the driver functions, the core DLL interface and everything was ok.

Then, I realized every 0x0D in the binary file was like that and the protocol did not gather this sequence of chars. I then went to the application and I realized I wrote something like:

FILE* file = fopen("file.bin", "a" );

By default the compiler will look at this as an ASCII file, unless you specify a "b" char like:

FILE* file = fopen("file.bin", "ab" );

And that was it. The hardware can send me either ASCII files or bin files, but it already produces a binary file that represent the ASCII file so I needed to treat the whole thing as binary.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stephen King and Neil Gaiman

Stephen King's "It" : Source Wikipedia
I am a big fan of Stephen King, since he directed a film that AC/DC, my favorite band back then, wrote a soundtrack. Among metal heads, his name was in fact a must have. My first book of his was "Pet Cemetery", which I devoured in a cold and dry winter listening to  Black Sabbath. This was 1988, I was 15. Since then, whenever I got some money, and it was usually at Christmas, I bough one of his books. I even got my mother and brother into his books. King was an English teacher, and is an expert on horror and fantastic literature. I never knew why everybody loved to dismiss his prose. Jealous folks.King's influences were Borges, Bradbury and Lovecraft, which he admires and praises.

Now take Neil Gaiman, a big fan of Stephen King, one of his greatest friends and one of my favorite authors. Gaiman says he does not understand why King is not praised as a genius. I would take Gaiman's opinion over any other literature expert.

Which opinion would you be willing to follow: Neil Gaimans or Harold Blooms ?

It seems that Bloom admires Ursula K LeGuin, thus I gather his brain cells are not totally inexistent.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Coppola' s "Tucker"


Tucker 's car from Wikipedia
If you were given the chance to see only one of Francis Ford Coppola films please watch Tucker.

Imagine a man, in the decade of 1940s that dreams of creating a car, 30 years ahead of his time. This man actually ends up achieving his dream. Sounds as a dieselpunk film, doesn't it ?. Yet....

Dude, this was totally real! It is based on a true story. .

Check out the Wikipedia link for the techs of the car it self. And the man who was Tucker.




Saturday, March 10, 2012

UI Framework

Seriously, if you are a C/C++ Windows programmer it is very likely that you were forced to write UIs. UIs are a necessary evil, because it is how our software converses with the user, which is probably my least favorite part of the software process chain. A user likely does not care that you saved RAM, you optimized loops, you replaced a whole switch case based decision tree by a XML file and that you even placed the XML settings based file on a dynamic STL container. No, users care for how "beautiful" an UI is.

Microsoft has provided an API, which is strangely associated with UI design while in fact, most of its usability lie in helpful functions for threading, networking, file copying, etc. Some crazy folks program UIs using the API. Some of them do that because they are genius, while others do that because they like to brag. Chances are that the latter dudes do not write software for reasons like supporting a family being a programmer.

Microsoft has given us Microsoft Foundation Classes aiming to make the life of the programmer easier. Borland tried that too. They succeeded in  some ways. MFC is fast, OWL and the later C++ Builder are fast and easy to learn. MFC UI design is painful, because you are required to rely on thousands of code lines that MS wrote for you and you hardly have easy UI classes to dabble with. For example, try to write an application with multiple tabs, basically you will need to write two new classes. Honestly, UI design has given me much trouble. Specially while using C++ and MFC.

I was rather reluctant to use Qt, because you see, Qt is a holy grail for UI linux programmers, and linux programmers are not windows programmers. Yet, after using Qt for a month or so, this framework has captivated me. Basically, you can have lots of useful classes and the design is not totally RAD, but it is OOP based, rather more than MFC. And it allows you to focus on the code it self. My tasks has been for years to grab bytes from A and transferring to B, and processing this data and displaying for those evil persons called "users". Qt has allowed me to avoid much of the pain of UI design and thus making me away from the user needs: Qt makes UI design faster . Don't bother with WxWidgets or other multi-platform framework, Qt is the way.  It is like having a Swing API for C++. Java is a very fun, decent, awesome language. But it is not fast enough for windows. Specially if you like me, works with "transferring to B, and processing this data and displaying for those evil persons called "users"."

Qt your self dear colleague. Ask your boss to Qt him self. They wrapped the Windows UI API into something fast, easy to use and sane. And best of all, with a few changes your application will run on that painful OS called Linux.

Just kidding, my only complaint of Linux is due to development issues, Ubuntu is pretty decent. Like CentOS.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Books I read

Brazilian Edition of "The Difference Engine"
I have just finished the book The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. It  disconnects the readers from our reality and intensely immerses their minds in a strange alternative 19th. Century  England. Wandering in an anachronistic London, characters seem, at first, not connected,  events are thrown at reader's eye without much concern to easy digestion. It is hard to discern between what was real in that century and what was conceived by the authors. Yet, this all is intended. The very nature of the machine it self is never actually shown, yet it was built in the recent years. London, seems rather dark, polluted and full of mystery. Cars are moved by steam, statistics and applied  math regulate the chaotic nature of a reality that never was.



Previously I read A Máquina Voadora by Braulio Tavares, which I dare to mention as our Bradbury, our Tim Powers, our P.K Dick. By creating an imaginary scenario, situated in Portugal in the middle age, Tavares crafts a story from wise, smart people that dared to try to understand the physics of reality in a time where scientific obscurity was a common sense.  The descriptions of that time are so intense that the reader feels like traveling back in time. This world is  recurrent in Braulio's stories, other of his works also are placed in this ancient Portugal, like in the short tales collection "Mundo Fantasmo" and I am reading  and " A Espinha Dorsal Da Memória", which are short stories books written masterfully. His imagination reminds me much of P. K Dick.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fringe

Fringe  is probably my current favorite TV show.  It is in the vein of several other great sci-fi shows like Star Trek, Babylon-5, X-Files, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. In terms of quality of course. All these shows share great writing and a big deal of imagination. They depict imaginary worlds or realities that make us believe in them so much that we lose the idea they're fiction products.

John Noble as "Denethor"
Fringe, has a premise, they will explain everything even though, they might use fringe science explanations. In fact, I really love when they have these paranormal activities episodes like when one of the characters returned from the dead using something called "soul magnets" or when Walter Bishop prays in a church, or when William Bell  mentions God's will as a limit for scientific exploration. On the other hand, they discuss several traditional concepts from science fiction like parallel worlds, multiple universes, chaos theory, butterfly effects, androids, artificial intelligence with a bunch of modern cyberpunk concepts. Excellent acting, specially Anna Torv and super specially John Noble. You probably saw him on "Lord of The Rings"  films. He has played the regent Denethor, you might recall, but his Walter Bishop is a fine rendition of all kinds of crazy scientists we know.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dennis Ritchie


Dennis Ritchie: Source Wikipedia
With the transition of Dennis Ritchie we lost one of our greatest genius. Unlike what many think, C was not simply a derivation from B and BPCL, these were actually interpreted languages. With the advent of C, Unix evolved and all the applications written for it evolved somehow.

And thus...

Networking evolved, compilers evolved, embedded systems evolved. C and C++ are two of the greatest mankind's achievements because they allowed a huge number of technological discoveries to be made.

When I was young, I told my father that I hated to study biology. My father, like always, rather synthetic, wise and smart replied: "You eat biology son". Well, not literally, my parents are: a retired Pharmacology PHD ( my father ) and a retired Milk Biologist PHD ( my mother ). My father wanted to tell me that what put food in our house was essentially biology research.

If my kids ever complain about C, I'd respond with a quote from my father, just replacing biology for C in my father's quote.

Hey Dennis, thanks for C and UNIX dude, when you were among us you rocked the earth, close to you, guys like Steve Jobs were regular men.