Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fact of the Day (31 Dec 2006)

Tony Hart designed the original Blue Peter badge. He originally asked for his fee to be paid as a royalty of 1d for each badge made, but instead was offered a flat fee of £100.

Beard Removal....

I wanted to shave my beard into a pencil moustache to go with my New Years Eve cuban gangster costume. So I decided to have some fun along the way...

Photo 1 - Before any shaving.

Photo 2 - The sideys and beard are separated.

Photo 3 - Into the Lemmy from Motorhead

Photo 4 - Droopy Hulk Hogan

Photo 5 - Yummy tache

Photo 6 - Sideys trimmed down

Photo 7 - Shaved the top bit off: pencil tache! Shame my hair is so light, it kinda only works with dark hair. Ah well, maybe I'll put some boot polish in it....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Pipettes @ The Roundhouse

Saw The Pipettes tonight, at the Roundhouse in Camden. It was billed as their Christmas Party, but frankly it was a bit of a damp squibb. I'd heard lots about this flippy, hippy, fifties threesome's party-style gigs, I love their album, and I know they have a loyal fanbase. But the gig was only half full (perhaps they overestimated the appeal of a 23 Dec London gig?) and the crowd that were there were mostly under 16. The poor ticket sales were probably the reason they couldn't afford any Christmas decorations for their 'winter wonderland', and the room made me feel the least christmassy I've felt all week - seriously, not a scrap of tinsel to be seen.

For whatever reason, the crowd didn't really dance that much, and frankly The Pipettes themselves didn't really seem that bothered - their dance routines not really feeling like snappy 50s-inspired hand jiving, more like melancholy primary school play hand wafting. The kind of look they are going for (think modern indie-chic meets the Supremes/Ronettes) only works with tight sychronised dance moves that make you assume the girls are connected by some sort of telepathic link. I guess they were just tired tonight, or the batteries had run out in the telepathy machine.

They played their whole album and a few B-sides, and yet the whole gig only last 45 minutes. Perhaps this is because all of their songs are irritatingly short, something that doesn't grate when you listen to the album, but at a gig feels really odd - the crowd never had a chance to warm up, the uninitiated never had the chance to become familiar with any of the riffs. The highlight of the show was a very suiting version of All I Want For Christmas Is You, not least because it coincided with the fake heavens opening to flutter fake snow upon the crowd. Many a fake snowball fight ensued, and we all left feeling smiley. It's only when I got home that I realised how disappointing the gig actually was. But still, they're lovely, and pretty, and cute, and twee... it just wasn't quite the christmassy treat I stuck around in London until xmas eve to enjoy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Films I really ought to have seen...

Now I love films, I love the cinema, I really really do. But there is an awfully long list of films that I really ought to have seen and, inexplicably, I haven't. I made a list, a really long list once. I wrote it in the middle of my diary, but the end of the year came and I chucked away the diary without thinking about it. So, I have to start the list again. Here we go, and it will grow over time. Feel free to comment other films you think I really should have seen, and I'll add them to the list if I haven't seen them.

OK, so based on the "1001 films to see you before you die" listed at Listology, which I've edited down to films I've heard of that I know I want to see, here follows a list of films that I have not seen. Try not to let your mouth hit the ground:
  • Citizen Kane
  • Mr Smith Goes to Washington
  • Rebecca
  • Casablanca
  • Double Indemnity (and not fall asleep in it this time)
  • Brief Encounter
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • The Big Sleep
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • On the Waterfront
  • Rear Window
  • The Ladykillers (1955)
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much
  • Vertigo
  • North by Northwest
  • Some like it hot
  • Rio Bravo
  • The Apartment
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • The Hustler
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  • Dr Strangelove
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (seen large segments but never the whole film)
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Easy Rider
  • M*A*S*H
  • Get Carter
  • Badlands
  • Enter the Dragon
  • The Wicker Man
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Rocky 2-6
  • Network
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Eraserhead
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Aliens, Alien III, Alien Resurrection
  • Kramer vs Kramer
  • Mad Max, Mad Max 2
  • The Elephant Man
  • Raging Bull
  • Das Boot
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Blade Runner
  • Poltergeist
  • The Big Chill
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Scarface (1983)
  • Amadeus
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • The Killing Fields
  • A Room with a View
  • Platoon
  • Withnail and I
  • Broadcast News
  • The Untouchables
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Die Hard 2 & 3
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors
  • My Left Foot
  • Jacob's Ladder
  • Goodfellas
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Delicatessen
  • Thelma & Louise
  • The Player
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Unforgiven
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • The Crying Game
  • Man Bites Dog
  • Short Cuts
  • The Piano
  • Clerks
  • Natural Born Killers
  • Casino
  • Heat
  • Fargo
  • The English Patient
  • Run Lola Run
  • Magnolia
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Being John Malkovich
  • Requiem for a Dream
  • Amores Perros
  • Memento
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien
[Thanks to Nigel]-
  • Goodfellas
  • Apocalypse Now!
  • A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Annie Hall
  • Dr Strangelove
  • Double Indemnity
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • The Big Lebowski
[Thanks to Jane]-
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Easy Rider
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • On The Waterfront
  • Manhattan
  • Harold and Maude
  • Vertigo
[Thanks to Andrew]-
  • North by Northwest
  • The French Connection
  • Clerks
  • Before Sunrise
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Stand By Me
  • Bullitt
[Thanks to Robin]- (for now, I'm giving everyone the benefit of the doubt here... though I'm sure not everyone will agree with everyone else's choices)
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Whisky Galore
  • Barbarella
  • Street of Crocodiles
  • Amores Perros
  • Forbidden Planet
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space
  • Eraserhead
  • Jacob's Ladder
[Thanks to Rachel]-
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Battleship Potemkin
  • Throne of Blood
  • The Sorrow and the Pity
  • The Third Man
  • Godfather Trilogy (I've seen Part I)
  • L'Atalante
  • Rashomon
  • The Apartment
  • Sunset Blvd
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The Big Sleep
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Chinatown
  • His Girl Friday
  • Talk To Her
  • Yojimbo
  • Sleeper

Monday, December 18, 2006

Now THAT is spin!

Impressive work by the Itsu japanese restaurant in Picadilly, where your man Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned. They've boarded it up and are advertising it as a "world famous meeting place" where an "international espionage incident" occured. Outstanding work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Carpet completes the job...

Oh yarsh, it's looking swell. New carpet an all now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Telly on the wall

My lounge is really starting to come together - got to conceal the wires properly with a channel inside the chimney down into the box, and then the new carpet arrives in a week....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My New Telly Arrived!!!!!

My new telly arrived!!!! And as I suspect, Sky MPEGing makes the picture look a little bit rubbish. So I did what any self-respecting geek would do... I put on Star Wars :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't believe the HypeMachine (but do)

This website lets you search blogs and stuff for MP3s that people have uploaded alongside their posts. You can then listen to or download the MP3s. Naughty, but nice. Just do a search, then click the "Popup Flash Player" button to listen to all your search results.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Projector or LCD TV?

Oh the most important decision I think I've ever made - shall I get a Projector, or shall I get a flat-screen TV. I know, it's dead important. Options seem to be:

Projectors 1280x720, and go for as high contrast ratio and brightness as possible

- Hitachi PJTX200 Projector £1,175
- InFocus IN76 £1,295.00

or, in the tellies, I'm thinking 32"

- Samsung R74 (good, but has connectors on the back, not the underneath) £949
- Sony Bravia (with the bouncing balls and Jose Gonzalez) £1,295

Any advice on this tremendously important decision, do leave a comment.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm 61% Gary Oldman

Face recognition software at - you have to register which is quite annoying, but I am apparently 61% gary oldman, and 57% robin gibb. Imagine the children....

Diet Coke and Mentos... to a new level

Now, everyone has seen Diet Coke and Mentos. But this is application....

Monday, July 31, 2006

"Back to the Future: The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance Revisited" (2005)

Wonder what it would be like to have Parts I and II of "Back to the Future" synched up on a split-screen during which both Marty McFlys are together? Here's your answer! (time gaps are due to logical off-screen action)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bournemouth's Grow Graduate Show

I went to see the work of some of the students from Bournemouth Media School's Interactive Media course at their graduate show on Sunday. I'm afraid to say it was a fairly sorry affair, set in what looked and felt like an old car park off Brick Lane. The venue was very hard to find, aided only by a helpful security guard and by some of the students wearing sellotaped A4 notices on their backs in a desperate bid to lure people in from the street. Best attempts had been made to partition and divide the big white space and inject it with some colour, but ultimately it was an empty echoing chamber with a few computers dotted around the outer walls.

That said, a space to think is important when you're taking in the cutting-edge innovations of the UK's leading bachelor's degree in the interactive media arts. It's unfortunate then that the work on show was as vague and disoriented as the notice-wearing students out in the street. On the whole, the content (each piece of which represented about 4-5 months of toil and each student's major degree submission) was bland and derivative, with very very few pieces showing glimmers of innovation.

I'll declare my interest, and my angle for this review, from the offset. I graduated from this same degree programme in 1999, having been one of the first cohort when the course started in 1996. I then worked at the School for two years, before becoming self-employed but continuing to Lecture and produce digital learning materials for them. I'm aware of a great deal of the internal machinations and politics of the school, and approach my review with (though you might not believe it) not a small amount of bias in favour of my old haunt, and with a continued interest in promoting the School and the course's better future.

When we started the course in 1996, it was a fairly brave new idea - the University took one of the most solid and well reputated Media Production degrees in the country, and split it into a conventional TV/Film course and this more contemporary New Media Production course (as it was then called). Back in 96, no-one really knew what they were doing (both student and professor alike) - the medium was new, the technology was rare, the audience was undefined; we always felt like the TV and Film students' poorer cousins. And I'm sure that some of the work we produced was shockingly bad. But some ten years later, the students and teachers of the class of 2006 do not have those excuses to hide behind. The medium, though constantly changing, is more defined and has a visible framework. The technology is everywhere. The audience is clear. And interactive media is both sexier and more ubiquotous than TV and Film. So why was this content so very dull?

The work could be separated into essentially two camps; the abstract arty pieces, and the more level-headed 'real world' web pieces. Of the two approaches, the former produced by far the more succesful pieces of work, though it was also by far the minority approach. The most outstanding piece of the show, by a mile, was Jack Hughes' abstract environment "Through The Glass... View From My Window" (shame about the name though), which offered an addictive exploration of all the different ways a mouse can be used to interact with an item on the screen, using delightfully simple graphics and a meditative soundtrack. The user was never quite sure if they'd discovered everything, and was spurred on to continue playing in the hope of exhausting all their options. Also falling into this category was "Amira", an interactive video drama built on a proper DVD-Video platform, using the built-in multiple camera angle functionality that offers. Though this piece didn't really pull it off technically, it showed an understanding of the platform and tried to use that lesser-known functionality as part of its narrative (and never have I seen so much attention paid to a Tutorial section, which was a clever complicated rap with music-video visuals filmed in a packed church hall).

That piece in particular summed-up what I had always thought Bournemouth's Interactive Media degree was all about - it is a Bachelor in Arts, not Science. It doesn't matter if you don't quite pull if off technically (that can be worked on), it's the ideas that matter, and you will be rewarded for innovation and breaking the mould. It worries me where that approach may have gone. The majority of the pieces I saw fell into the second of the two camps I described above - they were websites or CD-ROMs for real life (or pseudo real life) products or services. These pieces have to be judged on entirely different criteria to their more pure-art show-fellows. To start with, they can't be judged on the choice of subject matter - even if the student has gone to great lengths to think up an entirely revolutionary new perfume/aftershave line, this isn't a product design or marketing course, you can't give them good marks for thinking up a fun topic.

If they are setting out their stall to make a product that sits within the real-world realm of interactive design, they have to compete with the big boys. The pieces have to be navigable, they have to be usable, they have to be accessible, and most of all they have to have content. There is no excuse - NO excuse - for pages marked as "under construction" at this level of degree work. There is no excuse for a website that contains seven pages, three of which feature a single paragraph of text, and one of which is a web form for signing up to a mailing list which doesn't exist because it's a fictional product running off a local hard disk. Perfunctory add-ons such as downloadable wallpaper, ringtones, and off-the shelf re-skinned flashkit games are just padding; it's good to think that the student has considered their audience might like this, but I fear in many cases these were used to seemingly add more depth to a shallow piece of content. I counted at least five pieces of work that had no business whatsoever being Flash content - there was no material in them at all that could not have been presented more efficiently as a regular HTML website, with all the advantages of accessibility and web standards that this approach would bring.

Some pieces do remain in the memory, for varying reasons. James Griffiths' "Touch Me" offered a glimmer of inspiration, setting itself up as a touch-screen food ordering system you used at your table-side in a restaurant. He had limited all interactivity to emulate that touch-screen environment, and created a fictional community where the user spends their money and gathers credits for spending on bells and whistles. It was a shame that one of his bells was a bog-standard off the peg Bip Bop game which relied on the user having a mouse to be able to play, but it was an interesting concept that, notwithstanding burger-greasy fingers ruining all the monitors, you could actually imagine working in the real world.

Hannah Bliss' panoramas of the curiously semi-eponymously named Bliss bar and restaurant were good fun, though I was never entirely sure why the product existed and who might use it, and I feared she wasn't sure either. There were two almost entirely identical travelblog projects, both reinventing the wheel for products that already exist out in the real world, which I questioned the point of. And there was a marshal arts instructional CD which made good use of what I was told was called rotoscoping (the tracing of frames of a video to produce a fairly pleasing 2D/3D animated effect), though again I'm not sure the audience was well addressed and the content particularly navigable.

Credit must go to the students that organised the attendance at the show, put on as part of the wider "Free-Range" art schools' exhibition. I understand that each student had to put £75 of their own cash towards the show, and that explains the less than 50% student involvement. Though the University contribued some funds, it is easy to think they could have been more involved, since the show so directly reflects on their reputation - I hope for the University's sake that the better students were the poorer ones who couldn't afford to take part in the exhibition. Particular credit should go to the designer of the show's branding, Gregory Coe, for a really stunning visual identity for the marketing. The website may feature a really irritating soundtrack which you can't switch off, but the visuals are a delight.

I guess my ultimate disappointment came from knowing the process that these students have gone through to get to this stage. They are first taken through a process of prototyping their project and submitting it for approval - this is known as the minor project and they have to actually produce a fair weight of the project to get it approved. They then have the best part of the third year of their studies to turn that piece into something worthy of submission as their major project, making up something like 30% of their final degree classification. I cannot for the life of me understand how some of these projects, having gone through this rigourous process, have been allowed to be submitted in this state. The process of checks and double-checks that tutors should be going through to ensure the projects are of substantial enough scope in the first place should be catching some of these ideas and rejecting them out of hand. It is sadly a shocking reflection on the course, and I worry that my old tutors are out of touch with the real world, and what we as employers, but more importantly as part of the audience, expect of interactive media professionals.

It disappoints and surprised nobody more than me that I have chosen to right such harsh words about my dear old Bournemouth. But there's no place for rose-tinted glasses in an industry that only looks forward.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

12 rules for the tube

  1. Don't bother pressing the "Open Door" buttons on the train doors - they don't do anything. They're just there to fool South Londoners who are used to overground trains.

  2. Don't get out of your train and stop dead on the platform while you decide which way you are going to go. If you do that, I'm going to walk into you. On purpose. Scoot your bad self to the edge of the platform and wait til the crowd has gone down.

  3. As 2 above, but specifically with reference to people with those pulley trolley suitcases. You were carrying it by the handle, but now you're on the platform/street, you want to extend the retractable handle and walk along the street pulling it like a puppy. But if you do that right in front of me, I'm going to trip over you. On purpose.

  4. Don't get your Oyster Card or ticket out of your wallet at the very last minute. There's no need to do that! You've usually been stood on the escalator or in the lift for the last 30 seconds minimum, plenty of time to rummage in the handbag, rucksack or wallet. Or did you forget that the turnstiles were coming?

  5. If you're walking along the crowded platform waiting for a good spot to stop at, don't gradually... slow... down... when... you... spot... one. There's a whole crowd behind you doing that funny little dance that only English people do rather than just barge by you.

  6. Don't carry large luggage and rucksacks between 8-10am and 5-7pm. You'll be hated

  7. Just cause you're speaking Croatian, doesn't mean you're not speaking loud (and English folk, please remember how annoying this is next time you're on holiday)

  8. Tss tutu tss, tss tutu tss, tss tutu tss, tss tutu tss. Waaaaahhhh, Tss tutu tss tutu tss tutu Tsss tutu tss tutu tsss. You're killing your ears. And raising my blood pressure.

  9. On a crowded train, when you want to get off, it's just quite possible other people want to as well, so there's no need to push and say "scuse me scuse me", just go with the flow. And if you're sat on the seats, why bother standing up 2 minutes before the stop and trying to get near the doors? There's no room to breathe let alone move. What's the worst that could happen? You end up at the next stop and lost 4 minutes of your life.

  10. When you are at the front of a crowd waiting to get on an empty carriage, and you all stream on, think about efficiency. Don't sit on the nearest seat, just for the next person to sit on the one next to you and so on. The whole queue is held up while you shuffle your bags around. Sit in the middle man, it won't harm you to have two people sat next to you (one either side). You'll lose that precious 50% of personal space. But it really ain't all that bad.

  11. Scuse me, you're sat on my coat. Scuse me, you're err, sat on my coat. You're sat on my coat. Yeah my coat. It's ok, it's not your fault, it's not my fault, it just happens sometimes. Don't you fucking tutt at me, it's your arse, my coat was there first!

  12. Have a reality check. A wait of "4 mins" for the next train does not merit a stream of curses. You'll just miss the first beats of the Eastenders theme tune.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Divided loyalties? I don't think so

So Wales lost. Again. Fifty-something, to something-teen. My friend texted me after the game and said "Bet you're not so Welsh now, sucker". There seems to be a view amongst my friends that, because I wasn't born in Wales, I'll stop supporting them if they play badly, and it winds me up (which, to be honest, is the real reason my friends dig my about it).

I'm English, I was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and raised there. But both my parents are Welsh, and since I was a little boy I've been surrounded by a passion for Welsh rugby. My Gramma's house, where my mum was brought up, is a stones throw from Neath All Blacks' Gnoll Park ground. My Uncle and Gramps went to Neath games all the time, and there was just no option other than to support Wales. It wasn't a decision, I didn't wake up one day and say "I'm going to support Wales", it just was always the way things were. Is that so hard to understand?

I don't make it any easier for people by supporting England in the football. Now that was a conscious decision. Mainly because no-one in my family gives a shit about football, in fact they hate it. In fact, it was almost difficult to admit in my teenage years that I quite liked football. I decided to like my local team, Leicester City, and to like England, my national team. Mainly because that's what everyone at my school did. So just as I followed family tradition when it came to rugby, I followed the school crowd when it came to football. See, quite simple really.

I've heard about British Asians having this problem as well - England in the football, Pakistan or India in the cricket. But why should it be a problem? We have mixed heritages, why not be allowed to allocate those heritages across different sports? And come to think of it, why not be allowed to support whoever the hell you want, no matter where you come from. As long as you are consistent. I can support Croatia in the World Cup if I want to. But I have to support them after that as well, forever, and I can't support another team just if they're doing badly.

So yes, I'm just as Welsh as I was before (whether that's half welsh, quarter welsh, not at all welsh) and I still support WRU. And I'll be wearing my WRU top to work on Monday, just as I always do the day after a rugby match, win or lose.