the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Rey & Kylo's Greatest Hits, Volume 2

One post wasn't enough to contain all of the Praetorian Guard fight mashups that I made over the weekend, so here's volume 2. As with part one, this post is chock-a-block full of spoilers for The Last Jedi-- you have been warned!


After getting a bit of sleep, I jumped back into mashup action on Sunday, opening with a selection inspired by my college friend and once-upon-a-time radio show buddy Genevieve Mathieson, currently celebrating her 20th year on-air. (Seriously, check out her show, it's awesome!) She opens every installment with this gem:

Here, I really like how the change-ups in the medley fit so nicely with the transitions between the "chapters" of the battle. I can't help but smile.


That got me thinking of my on-air days of yore, and a song that my friend Marie Vibbert introduced me to during the very first episode of my show, and which always delights me when it crops up (as it did in last year's Baby Driver).

There's a nice little guitar note just as Snoke is being cut in half, followed quickly by a great connection with Rey catching the saber. The first saber hits of the battle match up well enough, and then the party really gets started. This almost feels like something in between the "Thunderstruck" and "March of the Pigs" videos to me. Overall the "chapter" shifts do pretty well here too.


I had seen a few requests for Queen's "Princes of the Universe" by this point but without any videos, so I figured I might as well do one.

The lyrics here are kind of... interesting when juxtaposed with the visuals. Clearly they are both "fighting to survive, in a war with the darkest powers" as well as "fighting and free". But a major point of The Last Jedi is that Rey isn't from special lineage, and isn't part of some grand destiny, so the claims of being "born to be kings" and having "blood of kings" run somewhat counter to this premise. I ascribe all the lyrics here to Kylo Ren's perspective, like an internal narration. There's sort of a fun double meaning at play that I really like a lot--just as Freddie Mercury sings "no man can be my equal" we get a zoom-in on Rey, who, like Éowyn in Return of the King, is indeed no man.

Visually, things line up pretty well overall, with especially good chapter divisions, and the "blood" line landing right on the shredder gag.

I'm pretty disappointed that there are so few views of this one--just three at the time of writing, compared to over seven thousand of the Hamilton one, and I think they're all me making sure it uploaded okay.


I really like mid to late 90s industrial music, so Rammstein's "Du Hast" seemed like a pretty good idea.

Lyrically, there's already a double meaning at work: "du hast" functions as both "you hate" and part of a line that translates as "you asked me and I said nothing," lines which tap deeply into the context of the scene. Everyone is dealing with hatreds, and Rey and Kylo had just asked each other to abandon their old allegiances and turn. The lyrics go on to challenge whether they will be faithful until parted by death, answering with a resounding and repeated "no!" that to me encapsulates their turbulent, transient alliance.

Lots of visuals line up well here; I especially like the cuts between Rey and Kylo before the battle starts, and the way the crunchy guitars enter just as the melee begins. As a nice bonus, the sort of angelic backing vocals line up perfectly with moments when Rey is yelling.


"Du Hast" got me into playing with Rey and Kylo Ren's relationship, so what if maybe they were a couple on the verge of a breakup (which they kind of are)?

I imagine this as Kylo Ren trying to convince Rey to stay, offering up banal platitudes like "I guess I was wrong" while they do terrible battle with the forces of darkness and the world burns around them ("and we're falling apart"). I like weird juxtaposition a lot, is what I'm saying.

Visually there's a lot of good timing again here; this one continues to make me happy.


I had seen many suggestions for The Proclaimers, so I stayed with 90s rom-com edits with "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)":

It's overall just silly fun, with some good alignment in places; the "ta la ta" bits are especially well placed to me. I enjoy the juxtaposition of Kylo Ren pledging to "dream about the time when I'm with you" as he murders the hell out of a guard, as if this whole thing is like his idea of a really awesome date.


The delightfully inappropriate juxtaposition of The Proclaimers reminded me of the classic reimagining of The Shining as a romantic comedy, and so I quickly flashed onto Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" that was featured in the Shining video, wondering if it would work in this context too.

Overall I'd say it's pretty successful, with a lot of the action lining up decently. In particular, Kylo Ren's triple-hit guard kill at the 1:47 mark seems to really connect to the music well.

My favorite coincidence here is getting Peter Gabriel singing "which connections I should cut" with "cut" landing exactly as Snoke is sliced in half.

This one also has tragically few views, so give it a spin and see what you think.


Taking a quick detour from rom-com treatments, I remembered the Michael W. Smith instrumental "Ashton" that I'd been obsessed with in high school, a piece that always got me revved up and made me yearn for the perfect visuals to go with it. I'm reasonably sure that at one point I daydreamed extensively about how it really needed something like a lightsaber fight. Decades later, Rian Johnson has finally delivered. Thanks, Rian!


I wasn't done playing with the Rey/Kylo Ren relationship; inspired by the "Emo Kylo Ren" Twitter account, I started playing with some of my favorite songs by The Cure. I couldn't quite get "Just Like Heaven" to work, and "Lovesong" didn't feel right, but then I got a little more into Ren's head and "Why Can't I Be You" seemed perfect: tapping into a mix of obsession and jealousy that seemed absolutely authentic for Kylo Ren. Secretly--and totally obviously to the audience--he wishes he could be as powerful and amazing as the lovely nobody whose sudden appearance in his life has shaken him to the core.

There's an urgency to the music that pairs really nicely with the scene, I think, and lots of good bits of action that connect well.

At the time of writing, this one is also under-appreciated on views, which is a shame, because I think it explores some interesting territory.


I was on a little bit of a roll with the 80s music/obsessive romance thing, so Depeche Mode seemed like a good next step. I chose a reworked version of "Enjoy the Silence" for the slightly industrial edge to it; I think it pairs better with the battle scene than the original version would.

Things that make me happy here include but are not limited to the lightsaber landing in Rey's hand as we get "here, in my arms", the start of the melee, Rey skewering a guard as the lyrics get to "pain", the guard getting shredded on "harm", "in my arms" as the guard grapples Kylo Ren, and the two syllables of "wanted" as Rey takes down her final opponent.

Moreover, I think this works so well because Rey and Kylo's entire negotiation and agreement before the battle takes place wordlessly. "Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm."


Still in the 80s, I took things for a silly turn, casting the fight as the ending chase sequence from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Pretty much no one knows the actual title of the song that plays as Ferris dashes through people's back yards as he tries to beat his parents home, so this has a pitifully small number of views so far.


I had started on this next one during the Saturday night binge, but wasn't quite getting it working due to an audio edit dilemma, so I thought I was just going to scrap it. Fortunately, my daughter came along the next day and encouraged me to finish it, so with her help we got it to a reasonable place.

This is the only video so far where I've messed with the audio at all, making a splice from the opening of the song into a spot near the end so that the transition into the start of the battle would be right.

From a timing standpoint, I love the "D-I-Y" matching up with the first saber strikes. Stay to the end for another fun shredder gag.

This has long been one of my favorite KMFDM songs, and I come back to it often when I need a dose of challenge-smashing self confidence. To me personally, "do or die" is metaphorical--the death of soul or spirit if I let myself succumb to whatever is eating at me--but here in the Star Wars universe it is quite literal. As a bonus, I think Yoda would agree: "do or do not; there is no try."


Finally we come to where I stopped for now, having to get back to life with my family and a return to the work week.

I've really fallen hard for this track over the past year or so, and I get chills from having it paired with this fight scene.

I'll let it speak for itself.


I have some ideas for others, so I might do a few more soon, though the meme seems to have died down over the past day. I've stopped getting new attention on the Hamilton video, which seems like a sign that this might be over for now.

The whole process was a lot of fun, though, scratching a creative and performative itch that has been nagging me off and on since the demise of Turntable.fm, so I'm grateful to have been able to enjoy the ride while it lasted.

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Rey & Kylo's Greatest Hits

Disclaimer: This self-indulgent post mainly serves as a way to collect a bunch of silliness into a single place for convenience, while also offering a platform for extra context--a sort of "director's commentary" if you will. It also contains MAJOR HELLA SPOILERS OF DOOM for The Last Jedi. Proceed with caution!


It started so innocently.

While skimming Twitter on Saturday, I ran across the start of the thread that quickly came to dominate my waking--and should-be-sleeping--hours:

I saw that people had started making their own in response and I couldn't resist. I had to get in on the fun. I skimmed through to see what had already been done, cast about for a few ideas, and then made this:

Fun fact: I almost started working with "Yorktown" instead, but suddenly I realized that after this battle, there are no witnesses to what occurred in Snoke's chamber. Literally NO ONE ELSE WAS IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED!

My first attempts at this mashup had stronger timing for the opening beats as Rey catches the lightsaber, but adjusting things to gee the "click/boom" payoff was worth the sacrifice.


After rendering that out and getting it tweeted, I was flush with excitement and ready to make one that would channel how pumped I was feeling. I was also starting to feel some time pressure since I had social plans to get to. Enter "Thunderstruck":

I was really happy with how the timing worked out here. Besides getting the "thun-der" synced with the opening lightsaber strikes, it also timed perfectly with the cut to the wide shot of Snoke and the twitch of Kylo Ren's fingers that summons the blade, the red light on Kylo's face as he ignites his own saber, and the cut to the wide shot as Rey and Kylo pivot into battle. I also like how the "ahhs" in the opening match up to Rey shots. In general there are some good places where beats line up with saber strikes and sparks, which make me really happy.

Lyrically, I like how "what could I do?" lines up with Rey being caught by the guard just before she skewers him, and the "yeah" as Kylo Ren makes a guard-kabob of his own. I do wish that "tore me apart" was a little closer to the guard being shredded, but one can't have everything, especially when the "you've been... thunderstruck!" connects so perfectly to Rey's saber drop.


I came back from visiting friends and was both sad and happy that no one had made my next idea, which feels like it should have been more obvious: "Battle Without Honor or Humanity," AKA "that song from Kill Bill."

There's some more good timing here: Snoke getting chopped, the cut from Kylo to Rey, and especially the opening saber strikes, as it turns out there's a third hit where Kylo's saber connects with the ground, giving a satisfying payoff to the "bam-BAM-bam!" Lots and lots of the melee hits line up on strong beats; there are some particularly fun moments with Kylo just before and as he's grappled that are really delicious, and we get a pretty decent effect for Rey's saber drop.


I was still feeling the Kill Bill vibe, so my next pick was "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood":

I love this song for a sword battle, but I also love how it plays with the who's-going-to-turn psychology of the scene. It's probably funnier to consider the lyrics as being Kylo Ren's point of view, and I adore how his face lights up red just as the lyrics get us "seem to be bad."

Once more we get good beats on saber strikes and Kylo being grappled, and a good sync with the guard being shredded, but my particular favorite bit is how the music goes with Rey being reeled in by the guard. I also like the "oh, Lord" as Kylo scans the room, the brass riff during Kylo's pirouette around the 1:44 mark, and the strings as Rey throws her saber to Kylo.


Next I wanted to connect with the raw energy and chaos of the opening of the melee, and nothing says that to me quite like "March of the Pigs" off of The Downward Spiral:

I enjoy the synth kicking in just as Rey rises into the frame, and it meshes nicely with the cuts back and forth between Rey and Kylo before the battle, but what makes this for me is the "step right up!" as the guards approach and the guitar kicking in on those first saber hits, and the chaos of the start of the fight.


I love Styx's "Come Sail Away" without a trace of irony, so I had to do it at some point:

I chose this mainly to get the electric guitars to drop in as the melee starts, but there are plenty of good saber hits, Rey's skewer-and-toss with is nicely accompanied, and I like how the gag with the shredder works here. Lyrically, I love Rey and Kylo Ren coming together to "try, best that we can, to carry on!" though Yoda might admonish them about whether or not there is a "try."


Fun fact: "Come Sail Away" was released in 1977, just like Star Wars! Since I had just steeped in the above nostalgia, and since Star Wars is about heroism, it seemed fitting to pick up another classic tune from 1977, David Bowie's "Heroes":

I read the lyrics here as Kylo Ren talking to Rey about their doomed relationship. "You will be queen" as Rey rises up, "nothing will drive them away" as the guards close in... "We can be heroes," opines Kylo Ren, but alas, "just for one day." Nothing can keep them together.


Around the time that I posted "Heroes", I saw that someone had done "Gangnam Style", which popped me out of the nostalgia and straight into internet meme territory, and I simply had to do "The Fox":

Sadly the video clip isn't long enough to accommodate the full first verse, but that's made up for by "frog goes croak" as Kylo cuts Snoke in half (because "ha ha, double meanings LOL"). Also Snoke's torso hits the deck right on "toot," which makes me giggle. I mainly timed this around getting "fox say" to match the first saber strikes, and I'm very amused by how each of the fox noise segments line up with different parts of the fight. The shredder gag makes a decent showing ("your fur is red, so beautiful"). I do wish that the last "what does the fox say" had lined up better with Rey's saber drop move--ideally I'd have "fox" on the knee swing and "say" on the headshot.


It's gotten way too late, so I'll have to follow this up with a second installment to cover the rest. Until then... May the Force be with you!

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231/365: Monument to Rock

231/365: Monument to Rock

Liz got us up early and downtown for the OROC 5k race, which meant that I got to go crazy shooting in the morning light at the Rock Hall. I ended up with a lot of shots I liked, but I kept coming back to this one. I have comparatively little in the way of architecture subjects in the 365 so far, so I'm all right with this.

Of course, if I felt like cheating I'd use this picture that Liz took of me and Claire getting our rock'n'roll on, but I didn't feel like bending my rules that much.

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Mass Effect and Doctor Who: Separated at Composition?

After finishing Mass Effect 2 yesterday (thanks, Bioware!), I found myself with the moving "Suicide Mission" music from the game's finale stuck in my head. But in a surprising twist, my brain suddenly shifted it, and before I realized what had happened, it had transformed into Murray Gold's "I Am the Doctor" theme from the recent Doctor Who series.

I've spent the past 30-some hours going back and forth between these two pieces, sometimes aloud and sometimes just thinking through them in my head, mostly just letting them dance in and out of one another and, frankly, starting to go a little crazy with them.

So now I'm trying to excise the madness by passing it on to you. (You're welcome.)

Start by listening to Jack Wall's "Suicide Mission" from ME2, starting around 42 seconds in up to about 2:10:

Okay, got that?

Now listen to the first 48 seconds or so of "I Am the Doctor", before it takes off into the wild, bombastic stuff:

Hopefully your brain just exploded a little bit.

But wait, there's more! There's a whole choral bit in each as well!

Take a listen to "I Am the Doctor" from 2:15 through 2:50:

And then "Suicide Mission" from 3:16 through about 4:15:

There's even a quieter, more subdued choral bit in each, just in a different order; "I Am the Doctor" gets it from about 2:50 through 3:40:

And "Suicide Mission" chills out from about 2:09 until 2:48:

The piece from the series 6 finale, "The Majestic Tale (of a Madman in a Box)", takes the similarity even further by pulling down the tempo and cranking up the brooding epicness:

What do you think? Am I high? On to something? Bit of both? Do you have a favorite piece that feels borrowed from somewhere else? Comment away! (Note: James Horner or Danny Elfman scores need not apply, unless incorporating or being incorporated by another work.)

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66/365: Victory Not Vengeance

IMG_0901

I cut short my PyCon travel by a day so that I could see VNV Nation in concert before getting on a plane the next morning. While this proved to be a stark reminder that I'm not as young as I was when I discovered them, the show was epic and I had a fantastic time, and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

Also, achievement unlocked--I'm posting this from the sky thanks to Delta's onboard wi-fi. It's totally the future, you guys!

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Girls Rock

Yesterday, my daughter asked me, "Daddy, would you make me a CD of rock and roll music with girls singing?"

First off, I'm pretty sure that this is awesome, because:

  1. She's interested in music
  2. She's already tapped in to the whole gender empowerment thing
  3. She's trusting me to help her find good stuff

There are a few obvious things that are favorites of mine that immediately come to mind, but I'd love to take suggestions as well. Keep in mind that she's four, so at least some level of taste is necessary (I'd probably be okay with the Letters to Cleo cover of "I Want You to Want Me", but not with anything off of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, for example.)

So, what awesome girls rock your music world? Comment away!

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Turntable.fm Spins Me Right Round

Awesomed

Let's be honest--I have a problem, and its name is Turntable.fm.

In case you haven't discovered it yet, Turntable is a social music discovery service that takes the form of a DJ party. You log in, join or create a room, pick some songs you like, then hop up on stage and, when it's your turn, impress everyone with your superlative musical taste. Every "awesome" vote gives you a point, which converts immediately into ego-boosting gratification and eventually into fancier choices of little cartoon avatar; too many "lame" votes and your song ends immediately and the spotlight moves to the next guy in the line. And down in the corner is a chat window, so that everyone in the room can interact, discuss, be silly, or help keep the room running smoothly.

Sometimes rooms have a permanent, genre-based theme; sometimes they do theme nights ("Death or Cake" is still one of my favorites); sometimes they're totally freeform. I really enjoy either doing themes or just riffing on whatever got played before me--the creative constraints can be demanding but ultimately very rewarding.

I first started hanging out in some small rooms with friends and coworkers, but soon discovered that Neil Gaiman would occasionally visit and thus I started gravitating to some of his rooms, which had collected a nice group of smart, open-minded, and polite folks. Neil doesn't seem to be on quite as often any more, and his rooms have died down, but core chunks of refugees seem to have banded together to start other rooms that are just as much fun. I've found myself quickly making new online friends that I look forward to "seeing" and spinning with regularly--much the same kind of bonds that I remember forming with the random strangers I'd meet when playing MUDs long, long ago.

Turntable is still in beta as I write this--you need to be Facebook friends with someone who already has an account in order to play. If you do choose to check it out, I'm on as "ExileJedi (@mpirnat)"; in the evenings, I'm usually in Scarytrousers' Laundry Service, and by workday I'm occasionally in AGI The Cave with coworkers. Now and then I'll start up ExileJedi's Epic Win, whose main rule is no songs under seven minutes. There are a few other dynamics I want to experiment with--a "Thunderdome" room with a two-DJ max for intense back-and-forth action, and probably a room capped at three DJs, as I've discovered that three players yields a surprising amount of joyful chaos.

This is a powerfully addictive and very fun service, and it stirs a particular feeling that I haven't felt since my glory days as DJ on WRUW--that pure, joyous rush of finding just the right thing to play is so, so gratifying. The immediacy of the feedback makes it all the more potent. It's eaten many of my waking hours, and frankly, most of my sleeping hours as well.

And, yes, when your favorite author gives you an awesome vote, it feels great.

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Reflections on CodeMash 2011

I spent most of last week at CodeMash in Sandusky, Ohio. I felt a little foolhardy setting out on the drive during the worst part of a snowstorm, but there was no way I wanted to be late and miss out on anything.

Now in its fifth year, CodeMash is a language-agnostic, polyglot-friendly software development conference that aims to expand participants' minds by opening them to new platforms and technologies that they hadn't been exposed to. There's a lot of .NET and Java, a fair amount of Ruby, a mix of web and desktop and mobile (iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone 7 were well-represented), and if you look hard enough there are even some Python talks. There seemed to be a lot of interest in Scala as well. All are welcome--the official anti-discrimination statement even covers your choice OS and text editor!

CodeMash features a "Precompiler" day much like the PyCon tutorial days, with four-hour sessions that allow deep dives and intense focus.

In the morning, I attended the introductory iOS development session, a fast-paced "type-along" that walks through the creation of a simple iPhone app and some basic tricks. I've been a Mac user for years, but since I'm mostly focused on Python and the web, I've never even cracked open Xcode, nor really spent more than a few moments glancing at Objective C code, so this was a pretty rewarding experience for me. I will say, however, that spending four hours in Objective C makes me really appreciate exactly how much Python has spoiled me--Python is so clean and readable, and Objective C is a twisted nightmare by comparison. (You have to wrap square brackets around method calls? Seriously??) But the session was fun, so I had a great time and learned a lot.

I spent the afternoon in Jim Weirich's excellent "Git Immersion" session. The first hour was a Powerpoint-driven thought experiment that began with the question, "How would you build a version control system?" Starting with the idea of taking a snapshot/backup of the codebase, Jim carefully layered on one concept after another, gradually and organically building up the pieces until we had arrived at a beautiful, powerful, and elegant system, and suddenly we understood git, in a natural, logical, "of course that's how it should be" way. Really a profound moment. Even rebase made sense! The next portion of the class was a self-paced series of exercises that I enjoyed working through, occasionally sharing my lightbulb moments with my neighbors. Lots of "aha!" and "oh, that's cool" murmurs. The session wrapped up with a quick discussion of some of the more advanced features like bisect and reflog, and I walked out feeling great, really turned on and excited to use this powerful tool.

The next couple of days were, quite honestly, a little bit of a letdown after the engrossing Precompiler activities. I got the feeling that there was the same content-to-talk ratio regardless of the length of the talk. Then again, it's possible that I just picked a bunch of losers, which seems consistent with my experiences picking checkout lines. The keynotes were kind of lackluster as well, though apparently I missed the good one while escaping the long lunch line for other arrangements.

The stand-out talks that I attended were Jon Stahl's "Agile From the Top Down" (about how your senior management should be doing Agile too), Joe Nuxoll's "Rules for Good UX Design" (which ought to be required if you're building, well, anything), Richard Harding's "Celery: Harnessing the Power of RabbitMQ" (a welcome burst of manic energy and humor at the end of a draining three days of learning), and Gary Bernhardt's "A Modern Open Source Development Environment" (Gary's talks are always a treat).

The "Mobile Smackdown" session was a fun idea as well; three devs--representing iPhone, Windows Phone 7, and Android--gave competetive walkthroughs of building a basic Twitter client in 15 minutes. While the iPhone's Objective C code was clearly the ugliest looking code, I noted with some interest that it looked like the Windows Phone 7 dev hardcoded some things that the iPhone didn't, and that the Android guy didn't quite get done in time. (In fairness to the iPhone, The giant pile of Windows Phone 7 XML also made me want to puke pretty badly.) Plans are already afoot for holding a three-way simultaneous coding duel in the plenary space next year.

CodeMash also seems to be a pretty swell place for social interaction--open spaces were buzzing, folks were meeting, and (I hear) that parties were pretty crazy. I had great fun playing mini-golf and Guitar Hero with coworkers. I mostly stayed away from the late-night party scene, opting on Tuesday night to write show notes for From Python Import Podcast and on Wednesday and Thursday to take in the band and awesome jam session. We were graced by the awesome presence of The Womack Family Band, who did a phenomenal job of not only kicking ass, but incorporating musically-oriented conferencegoers into the act--witness Matt "Snowdog" Gibberman playing drums on "Back in the USSR"! I was pretty happy to pick up their CD and get autographs.

Overall, CodeMash was great, well worth the treacherous, snowy drive, and though I wish I could have done even more Precompiler sessions, I'm already looking forward to next year.

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