21st Century Digital Boy

Introducing The Geekdown Podcast

Sometime in 2014, the Doctor Who relaunch hit Canadian Netflix. To that point my only familiarity with the show was a vague recollection of being terrified as a child when that creepy theme music started playing after Polka Dot Door ended on TVOntario. But with the 2009 reboot, and especially David Tennant’s turn as the Tenth Doctor, the show became a sort of phenomenon in my circle of friends, specifically with young women I knew who never expressed any tendency to nerdery before. So I made an effort to check it out.

And I hated it.

I could spot the reasons why I hated it (the camp, the mugging, the threadbare special effects), but every so often I saw what others saw in it: when the Ninth Doctor inadvertently stumbled on The Last Dalek in the Universe and proceeded to taunt and torture it, I thought I was all in. By the time the Tenth Doctor was fighting werewolves with Queen Victoria the next season, I was throwing up my hands. And I was troubled by what I seemed to be missing. Of course no one has to like everything, but this was something of “my people,” and I felt lacking because I couldn’t get over whatever was keeping me from just enjoying it. It couldn’t be the space travel, I loved Star Trek: TNG. It couldn’t be the time travel, I loved Back to the Future as much as any eighties baby. Was it the Britishness? I grew up loving American superheroes and Japanese anime (still do). Did my fandom fall along nationalist lines? I took these concerns to my friend Caitlin, one of the aforementioned young women who loved Doctor Who, from well before its 21st Century reboot. We never really reached an answer, but I never stopped thinking about this idea that Caitlin and I were both nerds/geeks/dorks, but in completely different ways. Surely our fandoms had to overlap somewhere?

And that’s when Geekdown was born. Every Tuesday, Caitlin and I will bring each other things from our various areas of interest, things the other likely wouldn’t check out, and talk about whether we like it, and why or why not, as we try to find the sweet spot where fandoms intersect.

There will also likely be high levels of nonsense, of the sort that only good friends of five-plus years can provide.

Subscribe to Geekdown on iTunes and Soundcloud.


Lullabies for Little Criminals

Life is….flux-y right now, friends.  I’m still debating whether or not its flux….y-ness is a worthwhile blog topic but in the meantime, I’m channeling my nervous energies into sonic landscapes for your enjoyment.  Just a selection of chillout and downbeat for your pleasure on these hot summer nights. From Toronto to wherever you are. Enjoy.

It should also be mentioned that since I’m too poor to pay for a Soundcloud account, I’ve only got enough space to host one more episode after this one.  When that happens, I’ll either shift those episodes over to PodOmatic or offer them for download for a week before taking them down, or throwing them on a file hosting site for anyone who wants them.

Bibio – Fire Ant
Large Professor – Back in Time
Pete Rock – A Little Soul
RJD2 – Salud
Fat Jon The Ample Soul Physician – Cold Memory
Knxwledge – seeinkRowt
The Roots – Hall and Oates
Steve Spacek – Dollar
Freddie Joachim – Meditate
Evil Needle – Mood Music
The Internet – Fastlane
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – My Cloud
Oddisee – The Carter Barron
Madlib – For My Mans [Prelude]
The Jet Age of Tomorrow – The Knight Hawk [PFG’s Clumsy Drummer Edit] 

Sweet dreams, friends.

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

It’s Sunday, and more than that it’s Canada Day, which means I really should be out somewhere drinking instead of holed up in this café trying to give all y’all something to read [really, you could just read my recap of how I spent last Canada Day. It’s much more entertaining]. And while there will be a very nerdy post discussing my relationship with Joss Whedon and the similarities between Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, that’ll be a little more labour intensive, and I really should watch all of the former series before commenting.  It might surprise me in the end [spoiler alert –  Cowboy Bebop : Me :: Firefly : Whedonites].  So I thought it might be more appropriate to discuss moves and projects and things of that sort. It’s so rare when I have something worth telling.

I didn’t make mention of it at the time because I’m a superstitious sort, but my proposal to the 33 1/3 Series of record guides made the short list. Leading up to the announcement, I was telling people I only wanted to make the shortlist. I was pretty certain I’d stumbled into a good idea, and felt I deserved to make the shortlist. That was all the validation I really needed.  Then I made the shortlist and thought, ‘Well…this is nice, and I feel validated….but it would be really awesome to write the goddamn thing.’  Friends, I’ll tell y’all the same thing I told my therapist: if 33 1/3 doesn’t want it, I’ll try to find somewhere else for it.  It’s still a good idea, it’s still a story that needs telling, and since it appears I’m the only one here interested in telling it, it might as well be me.’  The Editors say the final slate will get announced late this month. You can check out my competition here. Wish me luck.

Had somebody ask me why the last mix I posted was labeled ‘Episode 9’. It would appear some people don’t pay attention, I’ve been fudging around with podcasting for over a year.  I only recently moved to Soundcloud [finding the WordPress integration a little easier], but previous to that I was using PodOmatic, which is still a great service, it’s just a little clunkier when it comes to sharing. But if anyone’s been curious in revisiting the archives, they can be found on the old PodOmatic feed. They’re far more blabbery than the recent ones are, on account of making them on my old laptop with GarageBand, making mixing impossible. But you may find something there to enjoy. Anything new will get cycled through the Soundclound account, with ample warning when something’s going down to make room for something else.

Speaking of finding things to enjoy, did you know I have a Tumblr?!  I’d forgive if you if you didn’t. I forget it a lot of the time, but I’ve recently rediscovered its usefulness for sharing quick hits of things I enjoy.  Chances are any song that ends up on a future podcast will get some shine on my Tumblr first [I see you, Knxwledge].  Additionally, I’ve been talking to my former bandmates about starting a sort of creative collective to share things we make ourselves and collaborate on.  I admit I’m a little skittish about putting my creative heart on the line like that since we’re all grown ass men with other things demanding our attention, but I remain optimistic. If it does start popping off, Tumblr will be playing a larger role in my day to day. So follow me now.

Finally, I took a new photo for the header. I’ll be trying to swap them out more regularly, since it gives me an excuse to take urban panoramas on my phone.

I think it’s time to go find a location where beef is being charred over some sort of flame. Happy Canada Day, y’all.

DJ Wackness Rocking the Virtual Wheels of Steel

Okay, that’s not really my DJ name.  I don’t even have a DJ name, though Wackness would be pretty good, and likely already taken by someone.

So this one took a long time to do, actually. Longer than I was expecting. Maybe I wanted more than my skills and equipment could provide, I’m probably too much of a perfectionist. But it’s here for your enjoyment all the same, because after 26 takes, ‘good enough’ becomes a viable option.  For not having pre-cueing capabilities, I think it still manages to have some inspired moments. No theme this time, just some fun with some hip-hop. Tracklist below.

R. Kelly: Summer Bunnies
The Gap Band: Outstanding
Paris:  Thinka ‘Bout It
De La Soul: Buddy [12″ Version]
A Tribe Called Quest: Check the Rhyme
World Renown: How Nice I Am
J Dilla: Track 19 [From Another Batch]
Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician: How You Feel
Nujabes: Reflection Eternal
The Pharcyde: 4 Better or 4 Worse
Joey Bada$$: Don’t Front
Madlib: Pyramids
Quakers: Fitta Happier

Baby DJ Learns to DJ

By now most of you know that my love for hip-hop has its origins in acts like Run-DMC and The Fat Boys. What you might not know, and what I’ve really never talked about until now, is the one tape I probably valued like no other: DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. Like many eleven-year-olds, I found the lyrics [and video] for ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ hysterical, and the beat was different, falling somewhere between the disco rhythms of rap’s origins and the bludgeoning 808s of early Def Jam [courtesy of a Peter Frampton loop, of all things]. So my always accommodating, if somewhat confused parents ponied up the 20 bucks so I could run down to Tra-Kel Records in the Fort Malden Mall and pick it up. If I could even find that copy amidst the artifacts tucked away in my parents’ crawlspace, I doubt it would even play properly. I burnt that thing to a crisp with repeated plays. Much as I enjoyed the young Will Smith’s charisma or the songs about video games, what I was most drawn to were the gems buried on the album’s B-side. Most people forget or either don’t know that He’s the DJ… had at least six songs that were either classic MC/DJ party rocking in the most traditional sense [big’ing up your DJ, swagger and cockiness] or outright instrumental jams of Jeff scratching his ass off over classic breaks.

Those were the tracks my obsessive little preteen brain latched onto, and the moment I fell in love with the art of the scratch. I remember sitting at a folding card table in the basement of the childhood home, headphones on, trying to approximate the scratches I heard on songs like ‘Hip-Hop Dancer’s Theme’.

It’s a fascination that never really went away. On the rare occasions when I go to clubs, I never dance, I’m standing there watching the DJ. I’ve seen Questlove spin twice, and both times could have cared less about dancing, I just wanted to nerd out and watch what he did. For the pair of you who listen to RadioPFG when it comes out, you know I’ve started messing around with software to put actual mixes together instead of just fading in/out on complementary songs. Next on my gadget/toy wishlist will be a MIDI controller so I can properly scratch and pre-cue properly.

Thing is, I used to play drums in a band pretty regularly. However, now that I live far from my former bandmates, and frankly don’t have the room or finances to maintain a drumkit, I need to find other ways to express that side of me. I’ve found that DJ’ing and mucking about with consumer level drum programming [DM1 for iPhone, you are life changing, all for a dollar] to fill the creative gap left by no longer playing

Because I have wonderful people in my life who know these things about me, when they see deals for three-hour DJ classes on Wagjag, they buy them for me and don’t tell me. That was back in December. Yesterday, I finally went.


The PFG Guide to iPhone Apps, Vol. 1

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Douchebag got an iPhone and now he thinks he’s an authority to talk to me about apps? Vain, much?

It’s presumptive to assume that after less than a week of usage, I have anything to tell y’all about what apps are worthwhile. Few things in the tech sector get more press than app guides.  But, while I don’t have the experience edge per se, what I am is thorough, people.  I bought a $50 App Store Card the day I bought the phone and promptly hit the Internet to look at what came with the highest recommendations. Some are obvious, some seem to still be on the come up. Those are the ones I’m gonna shout out here.

Viddy [Free]: Touted as a sort of ‘Instagram for Videos,’ this service seems to be amassing users at a frantic pace.  Other apps like Keek already give users the option to post short videos [read, 15-30 seconds] but Viddy’s design and interface has the same slick appeal as its photographic colleague, down to the vintage filters you can put on your videos.  The orientation grid being a face with eyeline is a nice touch, too, and perfect for keeping your face centered filming yourself.

SloPro [$1.99]: Seems silly at first, but the few videos I’ve taken with SloPro have been both impressive and at times creepy.  The hook is this: when you film anything with your phone, it records at 30 frames-per-second.  So when you slow it down, it looks like everyone’s doing the robot.  SloPro records the video at double the framerate [on the 4S only], so that when it gets slowed down, it looks smooth and fluid.  Been trying to get that perfect shot of you and your friends walking slowly down a hallway?  SloPro’s the tool to use.  Note: there’s a free version, but it’s useless. You can’t save your videos, and a watermark appears across them after you finish recording. So if you want it, drop the two bucks and save yourself the irritation.

Rocket Man [Free, ad removal for $1.99]: If you’re a transit rider in Toronto, you need a TTC app.  Previously, I’d used Red Rocket, which cost $2.99 and worked great on my iPod touch, but seems to have stopped updating after iOS4, which is unfortunate.  What is fortunate is that Rocket Man actually makes it easier to locate and select favourite stops. Just ping them on the map and the app tells you the route number and time of arrival.  One strike: I wish it was easier to read a list of stops on any given route.  When I’m in an unfamiliar part of the city and want to know how far down my stop is, Red Rocket presented all the stops in a list; Rocket Man plots them all on a map you have to tap individually.  Not the end of the world, just a minor gripe.

TonePad [free, Pro for $0.99]: TonePad is a silly little app that turns your screen into a grid of dots.  Swipe your finger across the screen and some of the dots light up and play tones.  With a click of a button you can shuffle, flip or rotate the tone pattern, making for new musical discoveries.  All the music made on TonePad [by me anyway] ends up sounding like ‘Selected Ambient Works’-era Aphex Twin, but there ain’t nothing wrong with that. The Pro version adds the ability to make ringtones out of your songs, which is a nifty feature.

TuneIn Radio [free, Pro for $0.99]: One of the things people like to hate on the iPhone for is the lack of radio receiver, which seems silly but I admit was something I kind of liked about my Android phone. But, with one app download, not only do you get a local radio receiver, you get streaming radio from around the world.  The app allows you to set presets, has a sweet ‘Car Mode’ with a stripped down version of the controls on giant buttons for people who want to listen while driving, and keeps stats of your data usage on both Wi-Fi and Cellular networks, so you can be sure you don’t blow your data plan.  A great app from top to bottom.  I recommend you add WEFUNK Radio from Montreal immediately. The Pro version nixes ads and lets you record streams.

Photosynth [Free]: What the hell, an app from Microsoft running on iOS?  a good app from Microsoft running on iOS? I was as surprised as you are.  Photosynth is basically just a photo-stitcher, like the feature you find on most digital cameras these days. You take multiple photos in succession, the software ‘stitches’ them together and you get panoramic shots. Like this one.

Now that’s just something I did quick-likes [close inspection reveals the lines on the road don’t line up perfectly], but you can see the potential.  What’s even cooler is that you can stitch in all directions, it’s totally possible to create 360-degree shots in all directions, provided you keep the edges of the frame line up, something the app assists with very nicely, snapping the next photo automatically when it’s approximately lined up.  User control is still needed to make it as smooth as possible [I had to crop the above shot to get rid of the jagged edges along the top] but it’s a really, really cool program, cheap as free. Note:  while the app’s free, you’ll still have a pop-up asking you to make Bing your default search engine every once in awhile. I haven’t found it problematic yet.

Zombieville, USA [$0.99]: I have to mention this one, if only because of the story attached.  Up very late a few nights ago, I saw a section on the app store for zombie-themed programs.  Since I love the undead as much as anyone, I had a look through it.  Unfortunately, since I’d been irritated by constantly being asked by my laptop if I really want to download the apps I was buying, I turned off the feature that asked for my password before completing the transaction.  Therefore, when I went to scroll down using my trackpad, I did it while the cursor was hovering over the ‘BUY’ button for this game.  So, I bought it on accident.  Luckily, it’s actually a pretty good game. You basically run along a darkened street, fighting off zombies with guns and melee weapons, scrounging in abandoned houses for ammo and money to buy upgrades. Sometimes you’ll find other survivors to help you out, sometimes you’ll find a car or helicopter to mow down zombies for that level. As you progress, zombies get more durable and survival becomes narrower.  The controls are super tight and sufficiently simple, the violence goofy but satisfying and the action deceptively intense. I mean look, it’s no Infinity Blade [or even Scribblenauts, my favourite game for the iPhone currently], but if I had to buy something on accident, I’m glad it was this. There’s also a sequel, also for $0.99

So that’s it for now, friends.  Now that I’m officially a fully immersed member of the Cult, and with the WWDC a few short weeks away, I’m sure tech talk will pop up more frequently on here, but I’ll do my best to keep it to a minimum. Besides, it’s time I started doing something cool with this technology, instead of just talking about how cool it is.

Any apps you think I should know about? Holler at me in the comments.

The Return of the Mighty RadioPFG: Now on The Wheels of Steel

I can has beats?

Well. This took far longer than I was expecting it to.

The first application I bought from the Mac App Store after I bought the MacBook was Algoriddim’s djay, a sort ‘My First Program’ for guys like me who wanted to learn something about DJ’ing but didn’t want to toss out a few grand on turntables and a Serato rig.  The ultimate goal was to get some practice in and change RadioPFG from something that sounded like a campus radio show [Dead air…umm…dead air] and make it more of a live mix set.  I could play more music in less time that way, which greatly appealed to me considering the last few episodes only got about ten songs in and ran an hour [I’m chatty, what do you want?].

What they don’t tell you about DJ’ing: it’s haaaaaardI mean, this is the most basic of the basic, with the software doing all the lifting, I can only imagine what it was like pre-laptop for all the cats who were dragging record crates to gigs and had to beatmatch by ear.  I salute you. All things considered, I don’t think it turned out too bad.

Also the first time I tried using Soundcloud.  The easy integration with WordPress made it a no-brainer, but who knows how long I’ll be able to keep it up for. Promotional purposes only, lawyers. Setlist!

DJ Jazzy Jeff – Passin By Me
Common – Nag Champa
Ayah & DJ Jazzy Jeff f/ Kardinal Offishal, Skillz and Shad – Notorious
Childish Gambino – Fire Fly
De La Soul – Much More
Project Move – Make it Fresh [Remix]
Slum Village – Raise it Up
Q-Tip – Let’s Ride
Freddie Joachim – Strawberries
J-Rawls f/ Jonelle – Miss You [Bring it Back]
Project Move – Butterfly Theory
Alliance Ethnik – 5 Heures du Mat
A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour
Pase Rock – Grey Matter
Beastie Boys – Shadrach

A Letter to Meg

Meg is a friend and former Canadian Tire co-worker from back in the Windsor/Amherstburg days. We hadn’t spoken in the better part of five years when I get a message from her via Facebook, asking me if I blogged.

I swear, people, I wonder why I even try.

Anyway, Meg was interested in writing regularly and wanted to start a blog to do it. Sounds familiar. She wanted to check out mine, if I had one, to see what it was like. 

“Blogging is so super strange,” she wrote. Yeah, it is.  But it can also be kind of fun and amazing. I thought I would reply to her in public, as a chance to wax poetics on everything I know about blogging, which ain’t much.


I was pleased to get your message, if a little surprised, given how long it’s been since we last spoke. I’ll admit, somewhat shamefully, to having you and the rest of the former CTC crew on the Facebook chopping block not too long ago.  I’m glad I didn’t drop the axe.

So, you’re looking to start a blog to keep the chops up.  That’s actually the very reason I started this up in the first place.  In 2009 I’d long been downsized from my position as Chief Blogger/Onine Editor for the University of Windsor paper, cranking out a couple of entries a day eight months a year. Suddenly I had a surplus of free time on my hands. Working at the bookstore had put me in a more literary frame of mind, as did the friendships I formed with a number of my coworkers there.  By that point I’d been blogging since 1999 or so, writing mostly in the style of emo, though we didn’t have a name for it then.  Writing for The Lance had scrubbed most personal details from my writing in favor of news and opinion, with the occasional reference to the persona I’d constructed to stand in for me.

What became PFG’s been a bit of an amorphous beast since then, moving from the story of a guy who wanted to finish some fiction and try to get it published, to pop culture commentary, to something that’s now spun out into the occasional podcast or video and now sort of back to a fiction focus [though results in the recent poll suggest that’s not what people want from me].

I’ve thought a lot over the years about what blogging means to me.  I still, despite the bile most Internet-famous writers push into my throat, believe blogging and the ease of access to content creation for most people is one of the most important developments in recent memory.  Yes, a good number of blogs, including some of the more famous ones, are little more than vanity projects or single-topic stunts trying to spin into a book deal, it’s still an amazing tool with an infinite number of uses [something I had the amazing fortune to speak about to a group of students at the Queen’s Fac of Ed years ago. It was a simpler time].

Anyway, advice.