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All BS aside, we have questions to answer here:
1) “are these Pixies songs?” and 2) “are these good songs?”

Thankfully, the answer to both is “yup.”


https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/indie-cindy/id835625246

Disclosure: I’m a life-long Pixies freak, and I was very very very skeptical about this whole thing. I loved the reunion, and was super-glad they were finally getting some bank for all their historical influence. Sure, I wanted new tunes, but if they “weren’t feelin’ it” then, hey, don’t force it. Right?

So I didn’t like “Bagboy” when it came out. To me it sounded like a blatant attempt at trying to apply the “Pixies formula,” which it probably was. Surprisingly, I’ve actually grown to like “Bagboy” a bit; I still think it’s too long and a tad forced, but it’s actually pretty catchy. Damn them Pixies.

I totally understand the bar that’s been set here: this is one heck of a legacy to live up to. What I don’t understand is the haters. This album is better than most of what’s currently out there in this, or any genre. The songs are, for the most part, smart, fun, rocking, sometimes surprising, and ultimately addictive. But because this is the (gulp) Pixies, there seems to be this crazy standard out there, that, Kim-or-no-Kim, they simply could never have lived up to.

I also understand some of the confusion over releasing the EPs, and then this “album” (with the exact same songs). But this release strategy worked perfectly for someone like me. I wasn’t that jazzed about the first EP, I liked the 2nd one (but didn’t purchase), I saw some videos and liked them, and by the time the 3rd EP came out I knew I was going to buy the album, if not out of pure “want” out of loyalty. These guys (and gal) have influenced my life so much, I can spare $9.99 even if they just fart into a mic for 45 minutes.

So I plunked, and after repeated listening most of the songs are growing on me. It’s obvious that they put a lot of thought and heart into these tunes, and it’s appreciated. I find myself dialing up Indie Cindy a lot, in fact. More than I thought I would when I initially payed the $9.99 into iTunes, like coins in the can of one of my favorite bands.

Yes. Indie Cindy is good. But, I don’t think Indie Cindy tracks that well as an album. It’s more of a collection of tunes, which is fine, because I don’t listen to many albums like that anymore, anyway (yes, I know, heresy). So, shuffled in with my other new music, most of these tracks stand out well, and almost always have me nodding along and trying to sing the harmonies. More importantly, they shuffle well with the rest of the Pixies catalog.

The production is top-notch, and if you liked the Gil Norton phase of the first Pixies run, then you’re more likely to like this. The mix, arrangement and professional polish actually helps a lot of these songs. I don’t think they could’ve gotten away with Steve Albini on this batch. So take that as you will. …for me it’s not an issue.

All the elements are there, too. The “Pixies thing” that even Kurt Cobain acknowledged ripping off. The 3/4 time. The “loud quiet loud.” The quirkily melodic guitar lines. The appropriately odd chord shuffles. The screams.

The opener “What Goes Boom” is very rockin, and very cool. A good first track.

It’s got just enough “Pixies” in it to make it seem like it could’ve gone on Trompe Le Monde. The changes are good, too, and it’s just the right length. “Another Toe In The Ocean” could’ve graced TLM, too.

“Blue Eyed Hex” is probably my least favorite song of the bunch, but I didn’t like Bossanova’s “Stormy Weather” either, and they’re very similar.

“Indie Cindy,” “Greens and Blues” and “Magdalena 318” could’ve easily been on Bossanova (my personal dark horse favorite Pixies album). They’re all velvety and meandering and sinewy and wonderful, and no surprise that these are the three most popular tracks.

“Ring the Bell” and “Jaime Bravo” are just bouncy poppy wonderful little tunes. Not exactly classic Pixies, maybe, but Pixies nonetheless.

“Snakes” is pretty different, but a great rock song. Reminds me of They Might Be Giants in a way, which is not a bad thing.

“Silver Snail” and “Andro Queen” are droners, but nice in that way.

But, alas, no Kim. Duh.

Look. I think a lot of the Haters forget that 99.9% of the original Pixies songs were Black Francis’ songs. Kim only had “Gigantic” (and “Into the White” if that counts). Sure, back in the day, we all wished Kim had had more of an overt contribution per album (like Spiral Stairs in Pavement, etc). But Doolittle was very Kim-heavy, even though none of those were “her” songs, because her backing vox were strong on pretty much every tack. We easily forget that she was relegated to the fringes on Bossanova and even more so on TLM.

That said, let’s be honest here: many of these tracks could’ve used her. For background vocals, at the very least. And, honestly, it would’ve been easy to do. I really don’t know why they just didn’t make that happen (yes, yes, I know she “left” the rehearsals and the band, and it sucked and was a bummer and such). But they really should’ve just taken these finished songs, just as they are now, and driven a portable studio to her house and begged her to sing a sprinkling of backing vox on 10-out-of-12 of these tracks. It would’ve added that magical “something” that a lot of people seem to be missing. That magic that made, say, “Velouria” so awesome… where she merely sang the letters at the end of the song. How hard is that?

But she’s not here, and it is what it is.

I’ll put this review in plain terms, so everyone can understand it:

Indie Cindy is a collection of Pixies songs. As a whole, it’s better than Trompe Le Monde. But not better than Bossanova. The songs just aren’t in the same vein as Doolittle, or Surfer Rosa / Come on Pilgrim, but that’s okay. The Pixies weren’t the same after Doolittle, either, and I have a feeling some of the same people bitching about Indie Cindy bitched about Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde when they came out. Or maybe they weren’t born yet?

To me, these songs seem like a legitimate, honest continuation of where they left off in the mid 90’s. And that’s pretty cool.

TLDR; Indie Cindy is a pleasant surprise. Kim’s absence is certainly noticed, but this collection of songs is way better than it has any right to be.

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Cnet writes great reviews, and I love when they have their review “roundups”.

The slideshow interface isn’t the best, but it does the job.

The problem is that about two months ago they stopped their 1-10 rating scale (you know, the tried and true one) and replaced it with this… um… 1-4 scale?

Honestly I can’t even tell if it’s 1-4, because every single thing gets either a 3.5 or a 4.

Maybe it’s a newfangled 3.5-4 ratings scale?

Whichever, it’s annoying.

link

Attention shoppers: we have arrived.

We’ve all been doing the ecommerce thing for a while now. We’re all semi-pro online bargain hunters. We all finally feel safe using our credit cards online. And the government is finally getting around to taxing online commerce (bastards), because they know it’s gotten to a level that some pesky tax won’t pull us back from.

Online sellers are giving Main Street a run for it’s money like it’s never seen before.

Think about it: 20 years ago we were bemoaning big, bad WalMart swooping into smalltown America and squeezing out the Mom and Pops.

– The mom and pops cried “foul!” Economists cried “competition!”

And then a few years later it was the demon spawn Barnes & Nobles and eviler still Starbucks hastening the extinction of our local bookstores and coffee shops.

– The purists cried “foul!” Everyone else cried “vente soy latte!”

But now we find ourselves in the middle of an even braver, newer world: ecommerce has fully matured. And now no one’s safe. Even brick-and-mortar behemoth WalMart.

Oh, the irony.

Today a small town semi-savy Grandmother with a little extra time on her hands can easily find most of what WalMart offers elsewhere, for cheaper. With free shipping. And points. And she does.

We have arrived.

There’s a lot less cries of “foul” now too.

Why? For one, it’s not just the hardware stores, bookstores, or the coffee shops that are getting a beatdown; it’s every kind of shop imaginable, save for restaurants and nail salons.

But the main reason no one’s complaining is that the benefit to the consumer (you know, us) has finally gotten past the tipping point: everything’s cheaper, and who’s going to cry “foul” on that?

The unfettered competition made all the prices lower, just like it tends to do. And it’s a beautiful thing.

But lately another powerful phenomenon has come to the fore. One which will certainly throw yet another wonderful wrench in the works: Consumer Reviews.

You thought consumers had power before? Well, you’re in for a treat.

Now it’s not only their pocketbooks they’re speaking with. It’s their mouths. Fancy that.

Welcome to Customer 2.0.

Message boards. Blogs. Dedicated, free review sites like yelp. Dedicated, paid review sites like angieslist. And even company’s own sponsored forums, customers are making themselves heard. And loudly.

Consumers are making their experiences known, and their opinions count in ways that were simply impossible to count before.

And, moving forward, it will be very, very interesting to witness how this will affect individual businesses, and the marketplace in general.

I predict the consumer will win once again.

No, the customer isn’t “always right”. Just like “there’s no bad PR”, there’s always exceptions to rules like those.

But there aren’t just “angel customers” and “devil customers” either. There’s a patchwork spectrum of anything and everything consumers have to offer. From the truly good, bad and ugly, to suspiciously-glowing self-reviews and the vendetta carpet bash. It’s all valid, and if handled correctly, all helpful. But if business merely try to “bucket” them instead of simply learning from them, they will =fail.

So, with billions of consumers sounding off about the good, bad and everything in-between, how will we know what’s worth listening to?

Well, the market will sort that out, too.

Crazy, that.

“Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography”

Sparky felt unloved
“I’ll show them,” he said And did.
Big heads in white space

@ amazon.com

A month ago, after way too much research, I finally plunked for the Dell 2408WFP SuperSharp (and super sexy) LCD monitor. But since it’s one of these newfangled “wide gamut” monitors, I realized I couldn’t get by with the ‘ol Apple “sysprefs” calibrations I’ve been doing for years. And since I need to “soft proof” ads and photos for a living… I realized I needed a real calibration tool.

So, after a lot more research I settled on the X-Rite “Eye-One Display 2”. Aka “the best mid-range calibrator with the worst name.” And, well, I bought it.

http://www.xrite.com/product_overview.aspx?ID=788

$299 retail. And here’s the skinny.

When you first open the box, out comes the main unit, which is dangle “tool” that looks like a computer mouse. How it works is you hang that over your screen, and the software sends information to the screen. The donglemouse thing then reads that information, and sends feedback about the monitor back to the software. And viola! A perfect calibration.

Sounds great, right? Well. Not so fast.

Aside from the danglemouse, a weight for the cord (to help secure it) and a plastic “rest/ambient light detector” there is almost ZERO documentation.

No manual. No bullet points. No nothing.

The only bit of information you get is a “Quick Start” Guide, which is just a folded piece of paper that opens to about 10 panels. 4 of which are filled with legal mumbo. And each of the remaining panels supposedly giving you a “step” (in 10 languages at the same time, no less). Overall it’s very, very basic. Weirdly basic, actually. And not very helpful.

So then you go to plug in the dongle mouse, and there’s a warning on it: “INSTALL SOFTWARE BEFORE PLUGGING IN DONGLEMOUSE!”

Wait. It didn’t say anything about that in the comprehensive quickstart guide!

So I put the CD in my computer, and I noticed right away there are some very “OS9”-looking icons in the menu, which is never a good sign. But I soldiered on.

The CD contained a bunch of folders; way, way too many folders for any install disk. And among them I noticed there were some “tutorials”, so I tucked my pride behind my ear and opened the first tutorial. And, well, it was okay. Aside from the announcer pronouncing random words badly, and loudly, the whole calibration process seemed simple enough. The important thing being it gave me more information than the quickstart guide.

After the tutorial was finished I was still left with a jumble of files and folders on the CD. And not knowing which I should click, or what to install, I first tried dragging the icon called “EyeOne” onto the desktop, simply because it was the only “professional-looking” icon of the bunch. But when I double-clicked it, it showed an antiquated-looking menu screen with “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it. And when I clicked each of them, it didn’t do anything.

So, I opened the folder on the CD called “installers”, and found the same names as on the zombie program, plus one folder entitled “Pantone”. So I painstakingly installed each of these from this folder. Each one seeming to use a different installer program. Seriously, really?

Of course I had NO idea what each of these do. Or did. What the hell is “Match”? Is that where I match my monitor to something else? Is “Share” a utility that allows me to give and receive calibrations, somehow? And what is “Diagnostics”? How is it different from “Match”? Of course, I know what “Pantone” is, but is it really a necessary install? Again, there was ZERO information on what these things are, and I really, really hate installing unnecessary software, especially bloatware onto my computer. But I felt I had no choice here. I wanted this thing to work. I NEEDed it to work, and work well. So I installed everything… and to this day I have no idea what I installed. Or changed. Or, more importantly, if I screwed anything up on my system.

Okay. So everything was installed, I think (?), and I clicked on “Diagnostics” first, because my gut told me that that was the main calibration program.

My gut was wrong.

Apparently “diagnostics” is a program that is supposed to tell me if my monitor “is okay”. Whatever that means (again, zero documentation).

I clicked “start” and immediately it chastised me for not having my mouse dongle plugged in. So I quickly plugged it in, and it asked me to put it on a “neutral surface”. I remembered the ancient-looking tutorial told me something about a “black” surface, so I put it on the little bit of the box that was black. I have no idea if that was the right thing, or not. Oh well. Pressing on.

And… well… it froze.

Somewhere between checking the output of something, and the black level of something else, it completely locked up my system.

So after a generous 10 minutes of le beachball du spinno, I had to force-quit.

I relaunched, and again, right in the middle of measuring the “black” swatch, it froze.

I restarted. Tried again. And it froze. Again.

Oh well. Maybe I didn’t need that part of the program? I mean, on the whole, based on the price tag, that’s a $98 program right there that doesn’t work. So, thanks for that.

Moving on.

At this point I looked into my Applications folder, where everything is usually placed, and, as I guessed, there it was… an “Eye-One” folder. And in there was a program called “Calibration”. Aha! I opened it up, and it looked just like the program they used the old-school tutorial movie.

I let out a sigh of relief, and quickly wiped the breath fog off my new monitor.

I should point out here that I *still* don’t know what that other program was, or what the “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it did. Well, we know that it didn’t work. But I digress…

Turns out the main calibration program is called “Eye-One Match” (aha! …wha?), and it gives you a simple window that offers “easy” and “advanced” settings, and there are, surprisingly, instructions on the top right of the window that you can access by clicking the little buttons. It tells you what you’re supposed to be doing, and even clarifies some terminology in case you need it. A novel concept.

I did an “easy” calibration first, and it took almost no time at all. However, the end result was a bit too dark, and I realized that, for my monitor at least, there were still some pretty heavy brightness/contrast settings to mutz with, and even some RGB sliders that pack quite a wallup. So I decided to dive right into “advanced” mode.

To my surprise, even that went swimmingly. In a nutshell, all you have to do is let the donglemouse do it’s measurements and give you the results, then you tweak your monitor’s settings, and then let donglemouse do a re-measurement. And repeat.

This worked very well for “manual” RGB, which I ducked to 75% for all of them initially, so I’d have room to move.

And, well, I ended up with a damn gorgeous calibration! It was significantly “deeper” in saturation than my previous, “by eye” calibration. But, unfortunately, the “contrast” portion of the calibration didn’t work at all. It kept telling me that it was 100% spot-on, even though I would wildy swing the contrast values back and forth. Obviously it was broken, which sucks. But I like to set the contrast where I like it to “look” anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. But the fact that it simply didn’t work is pretty crappy. Also, there was no “brightness” adjustment phase, even thought the tutorial, and the program itself, promised there would be one. Again, not the end of the world because I just set the brightness (like contrast) on my monitor to levels I like, which I did this time and then had the Eye-One concentrate on the RGBs.

Well, there you go. A damn convoluted review of a necessary, but poorly executed calibration device. Did I get the calibration I needed? Yes. But the rub here is that X-Rite just didn’t do their powerful little “donglemouse that could” justice. The documentation is spotty at best, completely confusing, and otherwise non-existant. And, perhaps more importantly, the software is woefully out of date and seriously flawed. It’s almost as if the same guys who built the hardware also designed the software and wrote instructions. Which we all know is never a good idea.

Honestly I feel like I’ve gotten about $50 worth of my $200+ spent on the Eye-One Display-2. And that sucks, because I really, really wanted to like thing.

THE RESULTS:

YAY:
It does what it says it does. It gives you a decent calibration quickly (ala “easy” mode), or a great calibration semi-quickly (via “advanced” mode). Not a lot of parts to keep track of. Solid build.

BOO:
Uninspired presentation. Absolutely horrible documentation. Embarassingly out-of-date, confused, and crippled software.

GESTALT:
Not worth the money. But these problems could be easily fixed by manufacturer, and then it would be well-worth it.

blah blah I I I
typical american
Me Me blah blah crap

-submitted by my sister

A childhood mistake

The chance to be good again

Tied up with a bow