among the things I don’t understand…

…is recurring phrases like this:

When I watched TV, everything from Disney to Coronation Street, there was never a representation of me.

– says a poet of African descent

Tell you what, do people really look for “representations of themselves” in fiction when they’re kids? Really?

I honestly don’t know. To me, the very premise is alien.

I never did.

I saw characters I wanted to be. I didn’t think about whether they resembled the then-current me anyhow or not. I just knew “I want to grow up to be like this.” “This” could be male, female, a talking animal, a robot, a monster, a tower, never mattered.

And I am not buying the “you do not understand zilch cuz ur damned white privilege” adage. Privilege my [AYEM].

As a kid, I was never “welcome” anywhere, despite being technically white and even superficially “cis”. If you asked the world around me (and it spoke quite audibly despite never being asked to, y’know), I had the wrong clothes, wrong hair, and despicable skin. If anything, you could well conclude that having a red nose and early-onset acne negates any sort of “whiteness”. “Privilege” busted.

So by that sort of logic, I should have been in love with fiction that featured goddamn ugly characters that everyone hates. Because they represented “me”.

What’s the point?!

I only started to identify with characters when I was well into my twenties. Late twenties. And even then, I care for shared emotions and values. I totally don’t need there to be some show or book featuring a hypothetical asexual genderfree Otherkin born into a female humanoid body with a specific skin shade.

These are superficial features. They’re irrelevant.

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a revolution of sorts

Massacre Records does this sort of promotion where they simply post full-length albums for streaming on youtube. Yup, officially. Only found out about it recently.

Which means: you dear readers have no excuses anymore.

Where do we start? Well, why not with the first Coronatus album recorded with Anny Maleyes… if anything, it has this third track that has these uncharacteristically topical social lyrics. And the final one, in German, is also along the same lines, though less direct.

Other than that, it’s as good an introduction to the band as any other Carmen-fronted album of theirs. It has those catchy little melodies, those unorthodox rhythms strongly hinting at extreme metal genres, both these aspects readily blending here and there into those kinda-kitschy semi-dance/semi-folk structures that no other metal band I know uses… and of course those vocals in two contrasting styles.

those “classic rock” bands…

…are damn hard to take seriously when you actually look at them. It’s as if each and every music scene pre- and post- late 80s/early 90s thrash/power had a mandatory lack of taste re:stage clothes as an entry requirement.

Thankfully, the 1982 version of Uriah Heep seemed to display a certain sense of irony in that regard. At least I hope it was irony.

Whatever. The songs weren’t bad. Even if the band didn’t write much themselves, at least for that particular album.

this song sounds phenomenal live

Pwns the studio version, I say. Yes the lead vocals could be a li’l louder in the mix, but that’s live for ya. Still better than the way Metal Church got mixed in their festival streams this summer.

The only thing I dislike about Tarja today is her not using live backing vocalists. Yes it will add to the costs. But it will add so much to the show! Tapes are so nightw… so passé.

 

not a fan of Ayreon…

…but for this, I’m immensely grateful.

…and this really puts things into perspective re:heights. See, Floor Jansen is like six feet, and she’s likely wearing heels as well. And Marco, I’ve hugged Marco. He’s also freaking tall.

Holy hell, Hansi is about the same height.

Let this sink in for a minute.

Then think of how tall André and Peavy must be, then…

can people be Bryce-incompatible?

If yes, then I’m definitely one of them.

See, I managed to crash the Sky Lab numerous times by doing rather innocent things (or so I thought). It’s… frustrating.

Yes, you can get an HDRI out of the Sky Lab in a fraction of time it takes to render a scene to HDRI, either in Bryce or in Vue. But there are so many hidden variables at play that it feels worse than going straight down into a Daggerfall dungeon without a recall spell.

For those less dinosaur-CRPG-oriented, I just grabbed a screenshot in Daggerfall Modelling showing (part of) the structure of a random dungeon. If you’re thinking “the hell is that”, well, you’re right. Exactly that.

DF_Modelling

So I guess it just wasn’t meant to be, in my case. But anyone else is free to try. It is even possible to get a decent EV range in your HDRI from the get-go by fiddling with the parameters.

I’d stick to Vue from now on, though. Yes it’s way slower (a 4096×2048 map takes around an hour to render on my machine, using just the Global Ambience model). But it’s way easier to generate realistic pretty clouds in Vue, if anything. So that’s definitely a winner.

What I can’t seem to squeeze out of my venerable Vue 9 Esprit is any sort of workable dynamic range. So Partha’s GIMP builds to the rescue… If you save the HDR that Vue spits out as an EXR file, you can open it in any of his GIMP 2.9 versions (I prefer the “colour corrected” one). We only want to increase the brightness of our sun, so we toggle the “quick mask” and paint the selection in the form of a single round brush stroke where the sun is. // you need to select the “quick mask” in the “Channels” tab and use white as your foreground colour // Then we disable the “quick mask”, go back to our layer and mess with the “Exposure” slider. It only goes up to 10, but you can launch it as many times as you need (and you can change the selection via the “quick mask” to get a glow around the sun, for example).

So, according to Picturenaut, in the case of this particular map, we go from a measly 3 in dynamic range up to 19. Check out the difference in how this map lights the scene. And also notice fireflies.

Most really good HDR maps will give you fireflies, unless you use a crazy number of pixel samples. If you’re one of those who like rendering overnight, then fine. I’m not like that.

So I finally introduced specular intensity clamping to my shaders. Here, the torus on the left has no clamping; the torus on the right, the ground and the cone all clamp.

skya5_va_e_clamped_rfN.png

Wowie once reasoned that 16 would be a good enough value that kills most fireflies but keeps most of the dynamic range for rendering to HDR. So this is what I used.

I’d say it doesn’t look half bad for a first attempt.

The takeaway:
Obviously you can use the GIMP trick to enhance just about any other HDR map you find too dim, not just the ones you render yourself. And while there are loads of real footage HDR maps out there these days, with Mec4D’s ones featuring very pretty locations and all Greg Zaal’s ones being free now, sometimes you do need a map that no-one else ever made.

have you ever thought…

…about how warm it is in the English-speaking world, in general? Yes there is Canada and there is Alaska, but just how many people exactly live there? And just how popular does the web content they generate get?

I mean, just how often do you see the “advice” to “skip blow-drying” your hair? Framed in all sorts of good intentions, from “keeping the hair healthy” to “being environmentally conscious”.

This is so ubiquitous that it just goes to show that while we all live under the same sun, it definitely heats some regions more. Whatever that implies.

See, in Moscow, unless it’s high summer and it’s like 30C in the shade, it will take you more than an hour to fully air-dry average-to-moderately thick hair that falls below your shoulders. Even if you start with towel-drying it.

And if it’s below 20C in your apartment, which happens quite often here in Moscow between September and July (for a number of reasons that are beyond the scope of this post), you will end up with a nasty head cold from walking around with damp hair for all that time.

I’m not even talking about the fact that you will need to leave the apartment eventually, and preferably looking professional – to which damp hair doesn’t lend itself that well. Ten minutes blow-drying doesn’t seem that bad of a tradeoff. Surely beats getting up an extra hour earlier.

Oh by the way, blow-drying in and out of itself won’t harm your hair. You blow the same air on your scalp as well, and so you aren’t going to make it hot enough to be dangerous. Unless you maybe ruined it beforehand by bleaching or whatever. That I have zero experience in.

Maybe if you use some special “heat styling” techniques with your dryer, then maybe you will reach that temperature range. Maybe. No idea. I can’t style anything with a hair dryer; to me, it’s just a machine for not freezing my head off.

And “environmental impact” of a single person is a can of worms that I’d rather not start discussing, since it has become a freaking religion. A lot of those beliefs make zero sense from the scientific standpoint, and yet people will get offended. So yes, a religion it is.

If you really want me to make a statement… Let pig farms and coal power stations worry about their environmental impact. For everyone else, just make sure not to leave your trash in the forest reserve, thank you.

never been a fan of Apple…

…but that Genius algorithm in their iTunes player is damn robust.

I mean, it’s smart enough to start off a Blind Guardian track and then play a selection of Hansi Kürsch session appearances, only getting distracted by Helloween and Falconer. And given that my library only contains one Kiske!ween track (guess what it is… yup, Tale; everyone’s first Helloween track back then in the 90s) and no Derris!ween at all, this is all plain great.

 

what’s that with…

…80s US bands recruiting Angra members? First Megadeth, now W.A.S.P.

I suspect it’s because Brazilians aren’t yet aware of the fact that the leaders of these two bands are notoriously hard to work with. =D

I just wish W.A.S.P. would go back to actually working. As in, writing songs and recording albums. It’s not like Blackie Lawless has to slave away at a day job in two shifts, right? You’d think he would have an album’s worth of songs in no time.