Five of the Best: Rock Sax Solos

A friend on Facebook asked around about the solos that you couldn’t help hum note for note when you heard them. When I had a think of my favourites, I realised there was a healthy dose of sax solos in there. I did some trawling and here are five hot sax solos that I think rate pretty highly. Don’t hesitate to make your own suggestions below!

1. Bruce Springsteen: Badlands

You could have a whole list of Springsteen songs that have killer sax solos, and Jungleland is probably considered the signature sax offering from Clarence Clemons. It’s also hard to go past Born to Run, but for mine, Badlands has the best rock ‘posership’ of the lot.

2. Eddie and the Cruisers 2 Soundtrack: Runnin’ Through The Fire

I’m really pushing it putting this right under the Springsteen pick, but there you have it. The movie wasn’t up to the standard of the original but it still had some great music thanks to John Cafferty and Co. If you ignore the mullets, this little ditty has a damn good sax solo.

3. Billy Joel: You May Be Right

Short, sharp and damn catch – it’s what every sax solo should be.

4. INXS: Never Tear Us Apart

Another sign of a great solo is not being able to imagine a song without it. This is one such song.

5. Men At Work: Who Can It Be Now?

Greg Ham – you are missed.

There’s a lots of others that deserve honourable mentions, but I’m keen to hear your picks. Which sax solos stand out the most for you?

Review: Three Body Problem

three-body-problemIn the past my exposure to Chinese culture has come mainly from sauce jars and movies, so it was with some interest that I approached Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem. It’s the first in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy and was originally published in 2008, with this English translation published in 2014 by Tor Books.

The story is that of a researcher approached by a secret military group to discover why scientists have recently started committing suicide. His investigation has him playing a computer game that opens the way to other events.  I felt the book was saying that while Chinese society has solved many social problems, it still seems to have some issues with The Cultural Revolution. The novel deftly moves between the near future and the Revolution as the truth is slowly revealed.

Characters do seem to be a little shallow, but this may have been the result of the audio presentation by Luke Daniels. The hapless scientist is presented with a light voice, while the world weary police officer sounds almost New York tired – imagine Sargent Bullock from the 1990s Batman animated series.

This is not to say that the story is not engaging. It moves along at a nice pace, with a story of science fiction that does grab the attention. The translation is well done, and doesn’t feel clunky – you can feel the spirit of the words, not just the translations of the phrases. More importantly, the science in the book is explained.  I was not thrown immediately into the world of Quantum Theory, I was bought in through a three body collision, nanotechnology, and  microwave astronomy. So the ideas behind quantum theories and some of the other esoteric science did not come as a surprise that had to be understood beforehand. In this style of novel, it  can be easy for the science to be overwhelming, but it isn’t in this case here.

Given that this is an audio book of a translation, there are many places where this could be a dry, introductry novel with a lecturing tone. Instead, I found it to to be enjoyable, interesting and thought provoking. Hell, I wish that the next volume would get here already. For fans of aliens and laser guns science fiction, this is one to probably avoid. However, readers of Asimov, Reynolds or Baxter will find their reading time won’t be wasted.

Review: The Dark Between The Stars

The_Dark_Between_the_Stars__Saga_of_Shadows___Kevin_J__Anderson__9780765332998__Amazon_com__BooksAny fan of the modern space opera would have come across the name of Kevin J. Anderson. Having written novels for the expanded universe of Star Wars, and helping Brian Herbert flesh out the Dune saga, Anderson has developed his chops in the field. The novel The Dark Between the Stars shows that he has paid clear attention as to how to operate in this genre.

This novel is the first of the Shadows of the Seven Suns trilogy,which in turn is a sequel to the seven book cycle The Saga of the Seven suns, which I have not read. This first novel introduces characters, old and new, and handles back story without large info dumps. Showing us the humans, the gypsy clans called Roamers, the alien Ildrians and the tree worshipers on Thorac,  there are a lot of characters to get through. To make this easier, Anderson has each chapter dedicated to an individual character. When reading a chapter with the Ildrians, I did tend to wonder if his apostrophe key was faded from the constant use.

With this chapter structure, Anderson is able to move around the narrative without it getting bogged down. In fact, for an opening salvo in a trilogy it does start off at a fair pace. Although with an ancient enemy returning to the galaxy, shooting to an infidelity did tend to make me briefly wonder what it was all about. .

Once the foe is revealed, the remaining pieces are bought together very well. Characters are well developed, and Anderson is able to show us how much more important narrative is to character survival. Be warned, having a number of chapters named after you is not a sign that you will see the end of the book.

Overall, a well paced book, for fans of grand space opera, from a writer who has worked with some of the most respected franchises in the field.

How To Find More Movies on Netflix

NetflixIf like me you find Netflix’s movie browser a little frustrating, here’s a nice tip that can help you dig a little deeper. Below are links to a bunch of movie sub-genres you otherwise may not stumble across.

To see the movies display in your web browser, just paste in this: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/

and then after that last forward slash type in the number correlating to the section you want to browse.

Example: Comic Book Movies are at http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/10118

There’s lots of sub-genres you may not have realised exist, so have a slow trawl though.

Here’s the full list – enjoy:

 

1365 = Action & Adventure5977 = Gay & Lesbian Movies
77232 = Asian Action Movies7120 = Gay & Lesbian Comedies
46576 = Classic Action & Adventure500 = Gay & Lesbian Dramas
43040 = Action Comedies3329 = Romantic Gay & Lesbian Movies
43048 = Action Thrillers8243 = Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies
7442 = Adventures4720 = Gay & Lesbian Documentaries
10118 = Comic Book and Superhero Movies65263 = Gay & Lesbian TV Shows
7700 = Westerns
10702 = Spy Action & Adventure8711 = Horror Movies
9584 = Crime Action & Adventure8195 = B-Horror Movies
11828 = Foreign Action & Adventure6895 = Creature Features
8985 = Martial Arts Movies10944 = Cult Horror Movies
2125 = Military Action & Adventure45028 = Deep Sea Horror Movies
8654 = Foreign Horror Movies
7424 = Anime89585 = Horror Comedy
11881 = Adult Animation947 = Monster Movies
2653 = Anime Action8646 = Slasher and Serial Killer Movies
9302 = Anime Comedies42023 = Supernatural Horror Movies
452 = Anime Dramas52147 = Teen Screams
3063 = Anime Features75804 = Vampire Horror Movies
2729 = Anime Sci-Fi75930 = Werewolf Horror Movies
10695 = Anime Horror75405 = Zombie Horror Movies
11146 = Anime Fantasy6998 = Satanic Stories
6721 = Anime Series
7077 = Independent Movies
783 = Children & Family Movies11079 = Experimental Movies
6796 = Movies for ages 0 to 211804 = Independent Action & Adventure
6218 = Movies for ages 2 to 43269 = Independent Thrillers
5455 = Movies for ages 5 to 79916 = Romantic Independent Movies
561 = Movies for ages 8 to 104195 = Independent Comedies
6962 = Movies for ages 11 to 12384 = Independent Dramas
10659 = Education for Kids
67673 = Disney1701 = Music
10056 = Movies based on children's books52843 = Kids Music
51056 = Family Features1105 = Country & Western/Folk
11177 = TV Cartoons10271 = Jazz & Easy Listening
27346 = Kids' TV10741 = Latin Music
52843 = Kids Music9472 = Urban & Dance Concerts
5507 = Animal Tales2856 = World Music Concerts
3278 = Rock & Pop Concerts
31574 = Classic Movies
31694 = Classic Comedies13335 = Musicals
29809 = Classic Dramas32392 = Classic Musicals
47147 = Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy59433 = Disney Musicals
46588 = Classic Thrillers13573 = Showbiz Musicals
7687 = Film Noir55774 = Stage Musicals
48744 = Classic War Movies
52858 = Epics8883 = Romantic Movies
32473 = Classic Foreign Movies502675 = Romantic Favorites
53310 = Silent Movies36103 = Quirky Romance
47465 = Classic Westerns9916 = Romantic Independent Movies
7153 = Romantic Foreign Movies
6548 = Comedies1255 = Romantic Dramas
869 = Dark Comedies35800 = Steamy Romantic Movies
4426 = Foreign Comedies31273 = Classic Romantic Movies
1402 = Late Night Comedies5475 = Romantic Comedies
26 = Mockumentaries
2700 = Political Comedies1492 = Sci-Fi & Fantasy
9702 = Screwball Comedies1568 = Action Sci-Fi & Fantasy
5286 = Sports Comedies3327 = Alien Sci-Fi
11559 = Stand-up Comedy47147 = Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy
3519 = Teen Comedies4734 = Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy
4922 = Satires9744 = Fantasy Movies
5475 = Romantic Comedies6926 = Sci-Fi Adventure
10256 = Slapstick Comedies3916 = Sci-Fi Dramas
1694 = Sci-Fi Horror Movies
7627 = Cult Movies11014 = Sci-Fi Thrillers
8195 = B-Horror Movies6485 = Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy
1252 = Campy Movies
10944 = Cult Horror Movies4370 = Sports Movies
4734 = Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy5286 = Sports Comedies
9434 = Cult Comedies180 = Sports Documentaries
7243 = Sports Dramas
6839 = Documentaries12339 = Baseball Movies
3652 = Biographical Documentaries12803 = Football Movies
9875 = Crime Documentaries12443 = Boxing M10499ovies
5161 = Foreign Documentaries12549 = Soccer Movies
5349 = Historical Documentaries6695 = Martial Arts, Boxing & Wrestling
4006 = Military Documentaries12762 = Basketball Movies
180 = Sports Documentaries9327 = Sports & Fitness
90361 = Music & Concert Documentaries
1159 = Travel & Adventure Documentaries8933 = Thrillers
7018 = Political Documentaries43048 = Action Thrillers
10005 = Religious Documentaries46588 = Classic Thrillers
2595 = Science & Nature Documentaries10499 = Crime Thrillers
3675 = Social & Cultural Documentaries10306 = Foreign Thrillers
3269 = Independent Thrillers
5763 = Dramas31851 = Gangster Movies
3179 = Biographical Dramas5505 = Psychological Thrillers
29809 = Classic Dramas10504 = Political Thrillers
528582748 = Courtroom Dramas9994 = Mysteries
6889 = Crime Dramas11014 = Sci-Fi Thrillers
4961 = Dramas based on Books9147 = Spy Thrillers
3653 = Dramas based on real life972 = Steamy Thrillers
6384 = Tearjerkers11140 = Supernatural Thrillers
2150 = Foreign Dramas
7243 = Sports Dramas83 = TV Shows
500 = Gay & Lesbian Dramas52117 = British TV Shows
384 = Independent Dramas46553 = Classic TV Shows
9299 = Teen Dramas26146 = Crime TV Shows
11 = Military Dramas74652 = Cult TV Shows
12123 = Period Pieces72436 = Food & Travel TV
6616 = Political Dramas27346 = Kids' TV
1255 = Romantic Dramas67879 = Korean TV Shows
5012 = Showbiz Dramas4814 = Miniseries
3947 = Social Issue Dramas25804 = Military TV Shows
52780 = Science & Nature TV
26835 = Faith & Spirituality10673 = TV Action & Adventure
52804 = Faith & Spirituality Movies10375 = TV Comedies
2760 = Spiritual Documentaries10105 = TV Documentaries
751423 = Kids Faith & Spirituality11714 = TV Dramas
7462 = Foreign Movies83059 = TV Horror
29764 = Art House Movies4366 = TV Mysteries
11828 = Foreign Action & Adventure1372 = TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy
32473 = Classic Foreign Movies9833 = Reality TV
4426 = Foreign Comedies60951 = Teen TV Shows
5161 = Foreign Documentaries
2150 = Foreign Dramas
8243 = Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies
8654 = Foreign Horror Movies
6485 = Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy
10306 = Foreign Thrillers
7153 = Romantic Foreign Movies
3761 = African Movies
5230 = Australian Movies
262 = Belgian Movies
5685 = Korean Movies
1613 = Latin American Movies
5875 = Middle Eastern Movies
63782 = New Zealand Movies
11567 = Russian
9292 = Scandinavian Movies
9196 = Southeast Asian Movies
58741 = Spanish Movies
61115 = Greek Movies
58886 = German Movies
58807 = French Movies
5254 = Eastern European Movies
10606 = Dutch Movies
58750 = Irish Movies
10398 = Japanese Movies
8221 = Italian Movies
10463 = Indian Movies
3960 = Chinese Movies
10757 = British Movies

[URL IDs via DocDroid]

Vinyl From The Vault: Oscar Cartier – Down Under And Way Out

An ongoing series showcasing less common albums and their covers

IMG_4636

Catalog Number: ALP 1004

Appears to have been an Australian recording and pressing from when Oscar Cartier toured Australia.

Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

ancillary-sword-anne-leckie

When the first novel of a trilogy wins the Hugo and Nebula awards, one tends to expect big things in the follow up. It was with this assumption that I made my way to Ancillary Sword, the second of the Imperial Radch Trilogy from Ann Leckie. The first of the books, Ancillary Justice was a space opera that I found exciting, with the story unfolding from the point of view of an AI on a craft getting input from reanimated bodies, called Ancilliaries. It ended with a high point that promised so much more.

The version of Ancillary Sword that I “read” was actually the audio version, read by Adjoa Andoh. The presentation was capable enough without being obtrusive, but with enough emotion to be Breq, the main character in the novel. Breq is all that remains of the ship from the first novel, and the AI now has to find its way through the universe without all the accoutrements that a ship size AI can expect.

Knowing that a civil war will soon be occurring, Breq does not do what you would expect. Instead there is moral umbrage on local issues and side tracking from the major concerns of the trilogy.

Leckie has continued with the AI’s misunderstanding of gender, a device that is both enduring and a little limiting. With everyone a she, it can make it difficult to really get a handle on what is going on. Breq still maintains her ship ability to evesdrop on Ancilliaries, which allows for the single person narative to switch to scenes where the charater is not actually present. In the audio version this requires particularly close listening, as it is easy to forget where you are. My biggest problem is that I found it distracting, in that we would go from a single person’s experience of a scene, to a scene where our main character was not even available. It made me wonder why not being a ship was a tragedy when you still possess all the abilities you had before the ship was destroyed.

The action in this novel is a little slower, but this is not an action space opera. It is a ‘clean up the local issues, play local politics, throw military muscle around’ space opera, so don’t expect something that moves at a fast pace. When it does move, Leckie is able to move it along with a touch of the old Deus Ex Machina.

Overall Ancillary Sword isn’t a complete waste of reading time. The original premise of the first book is carried through, although the revelations at the end of the first are quickly ignored. Outside of those who have read the first in the series, I would recommend this to those who are looking for a new voice in science fiction. In this sophomore effort, Anne Leckie shows us that although she still has some things to learn, she will be an imagination to keep an eye out in the future.

My RSS Feed Won’t Validate: Parsing Error

Thought I would pass on a solution to an error I encountered with the podcast feed on this very WordPress site. I noticed the latest episode of the podcast hadn’t appeared in iTunes. I did the usual thing then of validating my podcast feed and got the following error:

XML parsing error: :3:0: XML or text declaration not at start of entity

That didn’t make a lot of sense to a layperson like me, so I did some digging and it pointed me to an issue I hadn’t noticed when I validated the feed: the first two lines of the feed were blank.

This is a problem. So after some more digging it became apparent that the issue can be in a number of WordPress files. Essentially there can’t be any free space before the starting tag in your PHP files.Some people find the space in their function.php file (in your theme folder), others in their wp-config file.

That’s exactly where my issue was. I had to blank lines at the bottom of my config file (shown as the pink line):

wp-config_php

Deleting those spaces worked a treat, with the feed validating fine once I’d done that. Hope this helps someone!

Vinyl From The Vault: Arctic Circles – Time

An ongoing series showcasing less common albums and their covers / history

arctic-circles-time-album

1986 from Spaceman Records. Cat. Number MRSM-05

01 Time
02 Wasp
03 My Window
04 Celina
05 Taste

That Infamous Dress: It’s Definitely Gold and White

https___www_scimex_org_newsfeed_explaining-the-colour-of-the-dress_Perspectives-on-The-Dress_Current-Biology_correspondence-3_pdfWith thanks to Michael Webster and Bevil Conway at the University of Nevada, we now have a solid explanation on why some people saw the dress as white and gold and others perceived it as black and blue:

Three Perspectives on “The Dress”

When you look at this photograph, what colors are the dress? Some see blue and black stripes, others see white and gold stripes. This striking variation took the internet by storm in February; now Current Biology on May 14 is publishing three short papers on why the image is seen differently by different observers, and what this tells us about the complicated workings of color perception.

Individual differences in color perception uncovered by “The Dress”

For neuroscientists like Bevil Conway, “The Dress” phenomenon marked the greatest extent of individual differences in color perception ever documented. It’s long been known that certain optical illusions can cause us to see two different shapes in the same image (e.g., a face or a vase), but what makes “The Dress” photograph so mind-blowing is that it’s the first time a single image could be seen by different people as wholly different colors.

“It caught fire because it was a case in which color wasn’t doing what we expect,” says Conway, who teaches at Wellesley College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, the #whiteandgold versus #blackandblue debate on social media wasn’t scientific proof as to how different we each perceived “The Dress.” To find out, Conway and his team designed an experiment in which they asked people to identify the colors they saw on “The Dress” from a full palette.

In a survey of 1,400 individuals, with over 300 who had never seen “The Dress” before, Conway and his team found impressive individual differences in color perception; they also found, surprisingly, that people fall into one of three camps corresponding to the main groups identified by social media: a blue/black camp, a white/gold camp, and a smaller blue/brown contingent.

“It could have been the case that you had a continuum of perceived colors, but if you plot the colors people picked, you see two main clumps falling into the two categories for what words people used to describe the colors of ‘The Dress,'” says Conway. “This shows that the perception of the dress is variously stable. By studying the pair of colors in ‘The Dress,’ we can answer the age-old question: do you see colors the way that I see them? And the answer is sometimes ‘no.'”

Another finding from the survey was that perception differed by age and sex. Older people and women were more likely to report seeing “The Dress” as white and gold, while younger people were more likely to say that it was black and blue.

Conway believes that these differences in perception may correspond to the type of light that individuals’ brains expect to be in their environment. For example, people who perceive “The Dress” as white and gold may have just been exposed to natural daylight, while those who saw a black and blue garment may spend most of their time surrounded by artificial light sources. The brains of those who saw a brown and blue dress are likely used to something in between.

“The big open question is what causes these differences in the population,” Conway says. “One framework for understanding why you get these variations is to consider how light is contaminated by outside illumination, such as a blue sky or incandescent light. Your visual system has to decide whether it gets rid of shorter, bluer wavelengths of light or the longer, redder wavelengths, and that decision may change how you see ‘The Dress.'”

The many colors of “The Dress”

In the days after “The Dress” was posted online, a group led by psychologist Karl Gegenfurtner at Giessen University in Germany asked 15 people to view the photograph on a well-calibrated color screen under controlled lighting. The participants then had to adjust the color of a disc to correspond to the colors they saw in the photograph. For the lighter stripe, participants reported seeing a continuous range of shades from light blue to dark blue, rather than white and blue, the two dominant colors reported so far.

“The question should thus not be whether the dress is blue or white, but whether it is light blue or dark blue,” write Gegenfurtner and his co-authors. “Despite the continuous choice of matching colors, observers are consistent in calling the dress ‘white’ when their match lies above a certain brightness and ‘blue’ when it lies below.”

Gegenfurtner’s team also found that all of the colors observed in “The Dress” correspond very closely to those found in daylight, adding support to the theory that how the eye interprets natural sunlight is what triggered #Dressgate 2015.

The special ambiguity of blue

Would “The Dress” have gone viral had it been #greenandblack or #orangeandblack? Not likely, argues cognitive scientist Michael Webster at the University of Nevada, Reno. He believes that the photograph is part of a growing body of evidence showing that the human eye is more likely to confuse blue objects with blue lighting.

For example, if you stare at a gray object and make the gray increasingly yellow or blue, then you’re more likely to see the object as yellow than as blue. This difference likely comes from how the eye evolved in the presence of natural lighting from the sun and the sky.

To test this, Webster and his research team surveyed 87 college students on what color they found the light-blue stripes of “The Dress” to be. The participants were split about fifty-fifty between white and blue. The researchers then inverted the image of the dress so that the black stripes appeared blue and the blue stripes appeared gold. Of those surveyed, nearly 95% said that the stripes were yellow or gold.

“We discovered a novel property of color perception and constancy, involving how we experience shades of blue versus yellow,” write the authors. “We found that surfaces are much more likely to be perceived as white or gray when their color is varied along bluish directions, compared to equivalent variations along yellowish (or reddish or greenish) directions.”

So how we perceive colour can vary due to a range of factors. Not exactly news but there it is.

How to Access Netflix Australia on Apple TV

Netflix_-_Watch_TV_Shows_Online__Watch_Movies_OnlineOk Aussie Apple TV users: Netflix’s Australian offering is available on Apple TV as of today.

Here’s how to get it:

1. Switch on Apple TV

2. Select the huge Netflix logo on the main menu

3. Confirm your email address (which will pre-load with your iTunes email)

4. Select the trial you want to choose (standard definition / HD etc)

5. Agree to the terms and conditions (read them for yourself but basically you get a month free then they start billing you via iTunes for whatever plan you selected)

That’s it. You can stop the auto-payment via iTunes if you don’t want to pay after your free month.

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