Jason McDowell is also known as Little Tiny Fish. He is the Creative Director for OnMilwaukee. Occasionally he freelances. Mostly he rides bikes. is not a cohesive blog, but a repository of musings on an assortment of topics, such as design, art, cycling, Milwaukee, and other personal experiences.

I got a chance to try out the Slipnot Bicycle Tire Chain system. The results were a mixed bag. Ultimately they were overkill for my use cases, but I could imagine situations in which they could prove to be useful. I’ll run through the pros and cons below.

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I watched Mutant Chronicles, a movie based on the Swedish roleplaying game published in 1993. I didn’t come into contact with the game until about ‘95 or ‘96 when they released the collectible trading card game, Doomtrooper (which is a less cringe inducing name, if you ask me). That was back when Magic: The Gathering TOOK OFF and every fantasy outlet had to have their own version. My brothers and I had no idea what we were getting into so we all bought our own game (I got Rage, based off the RPG, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Adam got Wyvern, a dragon–fighting game which, to my knowledge, wasn’t spawned from anything except good ol’ mythology, and Justin picked up Doomtrooper).

As time passed the win was yielded to Doomtrooper and we three began assimilating into the game, but soon the game became so mechanically unbalanced from subsequent expansions that it wasn’t that fun to play.

The Mutant Chronicles universe is, stylistically speaking, a cross between Steampunk and Cyberpunk. It offers some of the Victorian flair that Steampunk revels in, but is technologically more advanced. That is, instead of stunting at steam power, the Mutant Chronicles universe is stunted after World War I, a time before atomic technology took off (or was never created…I don’t entirely know).

So trench warfare is still a common way of fighting, Zeppelins are a common way of traveling but the space travel is still possible. Five Mega Corporations control the earth and fight amongst themselves, while a Dark Legion of Necro Mutants from outter space threatens to take over. This forces the Mega Corporations to flee to inhabit Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt. In the meantime a sacred Brotherhood is working to quash the Dark Legion.

Now as for the movie, it was produced and released over in Europe just over a year ago and was only recently released direct to DVD in the United States. The quality of the movie is a step or two above the Syfy television fare and includes actors Thomas Jane, Ron PerlmanDevon Aoki, Anna Walton and even John Malkovitch(!?)). And while following the recipe for a successful action movie (i.e. the black guy gets it first and the American comes out on top) Mutant Chronicles would definitely not compete against the Hollywood machine. I’d start with tighter editing and move from there.

That being said the movie does stay pretty true to the universe’s roots. They give us canonical characters, like Mitch Hunter, Max Steiner, Valerie Duval and Sgt. MacBride (though his race changes). The guns are beefy, almost unweildly semi–automatics. The underworld landscape is suitably carved, craggy, broken and malformed. There is gun play and sword fighting. And the story, overall, brings me back to the days when we would craft some creative roleplaying sessions.

It’d have been nice to see the universe more fully fleshed out, á la Lord of the Rings, but I’m a sensible person and I recognize that a marginally popular fantasy universe in Sweden probably won’t make the box office bank to recall that kind of cash. I’m surprised there was enough interest to make the movie at all! Maybe I can hope for a Clone Wars–style cartoon, though?

Now, would I recommend renting it? Hmm…maybe? There aren’t enough movies that focus on trench warfare and there is a suitably thrilling abandoned elevator shaft scene. There is also a lot of face stabbing (a preference of the Necro Mutants, it seems), quite a bit of cartoon blood and violence and the casual, unromantic final minute makes you smirk. It’s certainly no life changer, but if you’ve got a rainy Saturday afternoon, go for it. Otherwise this movie is best enjoyed through a good pair of geeky fan glasses.

The mixtape has returned with a fury. Two services, launched within a day of each other offer the ability to customize and share a streaming playlist. The first was mixwit.comand the following day, was released.

I had been tracking the word “mixtape” on Twitter for a little while when suddenly tweets about mixtapes flooded in. This might just be the first internet phenomenon I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing from the start.

The two services provide two unique ways of compiling your list. Mixwit allows users to search using Seeqpod for mp3s already freely available around the web. This provides a quick way to compile, but limits the quantity of tracks as well as the quality. Some tracks don’t play at all. This does take much of the legal burden off the shoulders of the Mixwit people, though. Mixwit also allows users to embed the tapes into blogs and social networks and the have announced plans to extend their services through Flickr, YouTube, and the rest of the net as well.

Muxtape, on the other hand, simply allows users to upload their own music from their own collections, arrange up to twelve tracks and disseminate it through a nice and tidy url (such as Listeners stream the music. You can’t embed the tracks, but what the site lacks in gadgets it more than makes up for in sleek, inspired style.

Muxtape’s legality is a little murky, though. Since you are theoretically copying music to a centralized server, that means Muxtape is holding on to a large amount of copyrighted material for which it did not pay. The suits may also question the legality of a broadcast without the proper licenses and, more importantly, paying the proper fees. However, I do notice that their player interacts with, so perhaps this is is less risky than it seems.

It’ll be interesting to see how strongly the record labels will react to these new services who’s popularity has burst forth like a water balloon, soaking the fibers of the internet. It’s obvious that the public WANTS this service, and lately the industry seems to finally be listening.

I don’t think the industry should take issue with streaming a series of audio files (though the RIAA may will want broadcast royalties). But I know that I would be much more willing to buy an album if the track was tossed into a killer mix. It’s the exposure and inspiration that drives me towards wanting more and the big wigs should be happy to hear that.

I’m already imagining the integration that these sites could provide. I’d like to be able to pass the mixtapes through Last.FM to chart what I’ve been listening to. I’d like to be able to rate the tapes, tag them, save favorites, and in the case of Muxtape, embed them. It might be nice to see their popularity. It’d also be great if Muxtape gave you the ability to “re–mix” tracks from other mixtapes into your own as easily as Tumblr allows you to re–blog posts.

And of course the winning (i.e. moneymaking) idea, be able to PURCHASE your favorites. Muxtape should make it easy to download the entire mixtape formatted in a way that makes it look like a legitimate album. Split the money between the site, the label, the artists, and even the mixtape’s creator. The site has been around for less than a week but I’m already confident that I would shell out $12 for Valentine’s Day would be the new Christmas.

We need services like this to build first and ask questions (and monetize) later.

Daniel Johnston played a mesmerizing set and wished everybody a “Merry Christmas” at the Turner Hall Ballroom last night. It’s the middle of February, obviously, but as he pointed out, “With all this snow, you’d think it was Christmas.” That’s the kind of whimsical naïveté that points the spotlight on Johnston’s song writing abilities. John Sieger & the Subcontinentals and The Scarring Party opened the show.

Every time I go to see a show at the Turner Hall Ballroom, something is different, whether it’s the entrance point, the start time, the floor layout or even improvements on the acoustics. Unlike the last couple of rock shows I’ve attended, this time we were greeted with a floor full of tables with candles, each with two chairs pointed towards the stage. It was a kind of sweet ambiance, as Johnston’s music is less about the rocking out, and more about life reflection.

When Daniel Johnston took the stage his hands were shaking, his fists were clenched and his eyes were closed. I first took this to be nervousness, but as the set went on, I could see that Johnston seemed barely aware that there was even an audience in the room. Even when the crowd was heckling / requesting, it fell on deaf ears. Usually you can see the recognition in a performer’s eyes, when they hear a shout out and choose to ignore it, but all I could see was an intensity in Johnston’s eyes, deep below his furrowed, bushy eyebrows. To him, it seemed, this was no time to be thinking about anything else, except this song. The result of this focus? Well, the first song wasn’t particularly “good.” It lacked pacing, Johnston’s voice never seemed to find a key, and the song may have been under-practiced. But none of that really mattered, because the intention was there, and the audience sensed that. At the song’s closing, the crowd broke the delicate atmosphere with whistling and clapping.

At first Johnston was the sole performer on stage: a large, round man standing in front of the skinny microphone stand, clutching a back-packer guitar — a sort of mini, snubbed guitar that truncates the reverberation of the strings. (Think ukelele, but with more power.) It was alone, under the spotlight, that all of the ironies that comprised this musician were made obvious: He was a powerful character, yet entirely timid. His performances were clumsy, but his music was beautiful. It seemed he didn’t want or recognize his fame, yet a full house was honored to watch him perform. He’s been compared to blues man Robert Johnson and country star Hank Williams, yet he is simply Daniel Johnston.

His instrumental performance was varied. On a few songs, Johnston’s fat fingers strummed his guitar, and later he ticked away on a piano (unfortunately for just one song) with an overwhelmingly bright sound. Most often, though, he was without an instrument, clenching his fists, or clutching the mic stand, backed by other musicians, including the openers John Sieger and the Subcontinentals. All through the performance, Johnston’s quality see-sawed between an endearingly child-like first recital and an impressively honest artist, who unabashedly announced his intentions, beliefs and fears, deep from within, without holding back. No matter what the quality of his performance, you knew when he meant what he said. When he sang the words “This is life, and everything’s alright,” I genuinely believed him.

Special guest John Sieger played the kind of tambourine–happy, Summerfest blues that is best enjoyed with a plastic cup in each hand. Opening band The Scarring Party played what they call “End–Timey” music, a combination of apocalypse–rooting, haunted jazz and folk with a hint of punk, held together by a diverse instrument line–up including banjo, accordion, tuba and typewriter. The new mellophone machine gives them a spookier sound, akin to Ramero–era horror films.