Posts Tagged ‘Video’



[Picture of Russian Sonstress, Regina Spektor]Regina Spektor seems to be everywhere these days. Her music is used extensively in TV commercials, movies, trailers and campaigns, and she’s done all the big European festivals like T in the Park and Glastonbury.

Her album “Far” is actually pretty good.  It is very New York East Village, very girly, and all that.  She is quirky, plays the piano and has some orchestration. That sounds like so many others, doesn’t it?  It moves on the Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom, Tori Amos thingy, and sits well with St.Vincent — or even Emily Simone.

If you listen a wee bit more closely, you hear that she does crazy things while singing — odd noises are emitted form her mouth, buzzes, rasps, tuts and heavy breathing!  She has a broad range too.  This moves the music up a notch from the usual girly wistfulness to something else.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Oh no.  There’s the “Back-Story”, and what a tale to tell — what a soap-opera!  You couldn’t make this up!  I’ll try to be brief and still do this fascinating tale some justice.Where to begin?  Well how about a few weeks ago?

OK, it’s the 7th of July 2010, at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland. Regina was set to perform, but was reportedly distraught, shaken and in tears most of the time.  She had to stop several times simply to regain her composure — all because the day before, her cellist, Dan Cho, drowned while swimming in Lake Geneva near Chillon Castle. But the show went on, and she pulled it off.

Flashback: to 1989, the USSR during the period of Perestroika, the Spektor family (including a nine-year-old Regina) emigrate to Austria and then Italy. She is completely fluent in Russian and reads Hebrew.

They were admitted to the USA as refugees with the assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and settled in the Bronx in New York where she studied classical piano with Sonia Vargas, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, until she was 17.  She did a four-year studio composition program of the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College graduating within three years.  In the summers she worked at a Butterfly Farm and even worked in Tottenham, London. Otherwise she was gigging to sell her home-burned CDs and gain a reputation.  She started getting recognition by performances at the East Village’s Sidewalk Café, CB’s Gallery, the Living Room, the Knitting Factory, Fez and Tonic that led to signing with Sire in 2004.

She was on Loose Women (Housewife Daytime TV show in the UK) back in 2007 — and later that year — during a sound-check for her gig at Ryman Auditorium, Nashville on 14th November that year, she collapsed due to intense vertigo as a result of an inner ear infection, and was rushed to hospital, cancelling the concert.  I can relate to that as I was suffering a similar state of affairs at that time too.

I take my hat off to her; she’s not had it easy, she’s a grafter, and she’s done a lot already with her life.  She’s definitely one to keep an eye on; some people just attract happenings and events!

[Embedded videoclip from YouTube: Spektor’s “Samson”]


[Embedded videoclip from YouTube: Spektor’s “Machine”]





I get asked a lot about favourite free media software, so I thought I’d do a post article on the subject. At the very least, it records the here and now and might provide laughs in years to come.

To begin, let’s say you wanted to download albums, books, or movies on the peer-to-peer network.  There is a nice wee free (and open source) bit of software called uTorrent (micro torrent).

It is really easy to use, you fire up the program and then use the search panel, it opens your browser at a torrent site. You select the torrent you want, agree to use uTorrent to download the torrent, and it downloads your selections in the background, resuming if you break continuity or even switch off.

Sometimes torrent downloads are in a strange format.  There might be several files that comprise a RAR compression.  What you do here is find the actual *.rar file in amongst the list, and simply right click and select “extract here” if you have 7-zip installed.  The result is a single *.avi file.  You can now bin all the other files.

Now that you have an *.avi movie file, you might want to make a DVD disc that can be played on home and car DVD players.

This needs DVD Flick, and open source bit of free software that converts the file and burns the movie — with customisable menus.  I have used various other ones, some better, some worse, but they have now gone by the wayside by introducing charges. They were only free long enough to get you hooked.

Sometimes you just want to copy *.avi files as data files, either as a back up or with the intention to play on a laptop or some-such.  To quickly copy data files (and that means anything from *.avi files, and *.mp3 files to *.jpg and *.gif files), simply use the free and open source InfraRecorder software.

A great way to surf the web is to use Firefox’s tabbed browser. It is free and open source too.

You can customise this browser in all sorts of ways using the free plug-ins. A good plug in to get is Video download helper.

So now, when you are watching a video on something like YouTube, you can download the file.  The Download Helper can be configured to download and convert to a suitable format (the original YouTube format is *.flv).

On the other hand, you can just get a video player that can handle just about any format… VLC.

This can also make *.mp3 files from videos (separating off the audio from the movie), and even take snapshot stills of movies, or turn home movies taken with the camera turned on its side.  Seriously, it does AMAZING things, yet it is free and open source.

VLC is so much better than Window media player; it plays very odd formats and you can even slow down playback — which is great of learning guitar licks from youtube clips.

Hope this list helps someone out there! Enjoy!




I must say that I laughed out loud when I saw this old TV clip on

[embedded video clip from]

What I loved about “Candid Camera” was that it was both funny and true — the psychology behind our behaviour is solid and so we are very predictable in what we do when faced with set up situations.

The fact is that we all have to face the same way in elevators, and we even have to remove hats! Hilarious!




At university, I studied what-was-called “The Enlightenment”, and was taught about the Enlightenment values of Secularism, Humanism and Reason.  Of course, there was a “Politically Correct backlash” against the term “Enlightenment” which was as amusing as it was ironic.

Anyway, having an interest in such things brought me to the marvellous Christopher Hitchens — who has described himself as a believer in those “Enlightenment” values.

For many years now I have refused to buy a newspaper, so I have missed his columns, but I have always enjoyed anything of him that comes my way.  It is a breath of fresh air in a world of fake plastic celebrity, dumbing down and soundbite politics to hear a personal view, properly structured and thought-through.

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Christopher Hitchens wrote: “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything“, and I love that! He really doesn’t mince his words, does he?

  • He is anti-religion — all religions.

Perhaps he agrees with me that much of it is now of more cultural importance than anything else, I read somewhere that he thinks all educated people should have a knowledge of the Bible.

Knowing about the Bible is a precursor for making sense of what we are, what we have and how we got here, but then again, I am not restricting this argument to just the Bible — I would also have to include Greek mythology and a few other things.

Anyway, I came across some classic Hitchens on YouTube, tonight, and just had to share the love!

This one is called “Why Women Still Aren’t Funny”. Superb!

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This is his response to a response from Sarah Silverman and others to his article of that title.




This year’s hot pop band for the festivals is The Ting Tings — which is just a girl and a bloke on drums (Jules de Martino and Katie White) — a bit like The White Stripes, but in reverse. Sort of.

This post is appropriate because the band has just played my home town (last night) to rave reviews and earlier this week they won The XFM Live Breakthrough Act at the 2008 Vodafone Music Awards at the Carling Academy in Brixton.

Anyway, the track listing for their début album, “We Started Nothing” on Columbia, 2008, is as follows — and I have added the keys.

01 – Great DJ  [D major];
02 – That’s Not My Name [E minor];
03 – Fruit Machine [D major];
04 – Traffic Light [B major];
05 – Shut Up And Let Me Go [E minor];
06 – Keep Your Head [E major];
07 – Be The One [E major];
08 – We Walk [Eb minor];
09 – Impacilla Carpisung [C major];
10 – We Started Nothing [E minor].

Re-arranging for keys, we get the following (which might be interesting as a playlist)…
04 – Traffic Light [B major];
09 – Impacilla Carpisung [C major];
01 – Great DJ [D major];
03 – Fruit Machine [D major];
08 – We Walk [Eb minor];
02 – That’s Not My Name [E minor];
05 – Shut Up And Let Me Go [E minor];
10 – We Started Nothing [E minor];
06 – Keep Your Head [E major];
07 – Be The One [E major].

Generally, The Ting Tings is St Etienne meets Brazilian electro-pop hedonists CSS (or even Brazilian baile-funk supremos Bonde Do Role). It’s indie dance pop. They were hyped big time by NME and feted by the music media for the big summer festivals, but at the end of the day, it’s just pop — it’s fun!  This is just music for the summer of 2008 – pity it was such a wash-out weatherwise).

“That’s Not my Name” got to No1 simply because it is a cross between Toni Basil’s “Micky” and The Knack’s “My Sharona”. Hooks abound, so Jump about, dance along or sing in the car when no-one is looking.

Catch this like the cold.




I am telling you. Seriously. Don’t activate Windows Media Player, don’t download the new crazy version, don’t waste your time.  Believe me. It’s a media player for lawyers.

Real and Quicktime are nightmares too. Try to steer clear, honest. There IS a better way!

Look, I have played around with loads of these things, I loved Musicmatch Jukebox (from yahoo!) about 10 years ago, and then went off it when new versions started to get too fancy.

I still have an old (verison 1) Applian FLV player to hand for stuff downloaded from YouTube, but my main videoplayer is  VLC — and I have a portable apps version of VLC for use on-the-go from my USB flash drive.

For audio, the winner, though, HAS to be MEDIAMONKEY download from

It allows for the most flexibility — even to the point of renaming of file names as well as tags.  It’s robust and comprehensive. Unlike Windows, it can handle any picture file of any name and any dimension and use it as the album art — no weird hidden file in three sizes downloaded in secret!  No DRM — you can rip and burn and organise your collection the way you want it.

I like the way it fades in and out; it gives it a more solid, professional feel — it’s easy to use (easier than WMP and jukebox) and just works!  I hate the way WMP for example, spends ages going through your system cataloguing everything (slowly at that).  It’s basically grassing you up for being a media pirate ah-harrr!

Media monkey, Applian FLV player and VLC are all FREE of Charge! result.




Western Spaghetti by PES on YouTube.  This is stop-motion animation at it’s best.  I just love the creativity behind this; it’s perfect, and great fun.

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Lock Bumping is simply a way of unlocking without the correct key.  It has been used for years by thieves and locksmiths alike, but now — mainly because of the internet — more people know about the technique.  The answer is not to buy a upVC door and have a standard lock — get an old fashioned mortice lock!

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As a result of the media fuss over in the ‘states, there are now “bump-proof” lock available at hardware stores!

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Using a bumping key — with the rubber rings or not, is just a form of raking — which in turn is a type of picking.  It’s all about lining up the shears in the pins and then turning to open the lock.