Friday, 29 February 2008

Google Page Rank 4 achieved

Wow, I'd like to thank the interweb, the is alivites and a supreme being too. We've come a long way since the last state of the Benunion. I'm off to Hoxditch to celebrate. Hoot.

Streamlining web presence

Entering a sweltering hall at seventeen there’s no way I would have made a connection between a University/Careers Prospectus Fair and the current state of my web presence. As I walked through the hall, teaming with confused minds belonging to both students and sellers, physical and metaphorical arms tried to reach out to me. ‘Come and join the army, we’ll pay for everything, except your life. Sign up to Nottingham, our prospectus was designed by an artist.’

The same thing has happened to my online life. I must belong to a least a dozen social networks, forums, rss feeds, and mailing lists etc but to make any of them really worthwhile you can’t just take. Like the best relationships, communication, mutual interests and attraction are key. I’m not saying I want to make sweet love to my Facebook page or Tumblr account but investing some time will obviously result in positive results/searches/babies?

The problem is, there are too many. I talked about having it all in my iGoogle page and only stepping out of that to daringly press the StumbleUpon button but that’s not ‘giving’ enough from a community standpoint. Realistically, if you’re going to belong to things like Mixx, Digg, StumbleUpon,, Flickr, Tumblr etc you really should contribute.

‘Time!’ I hear you cry in an impotent rage fuelled by modern living. Yeah, me too. So what are we to do? In the same way whacky middle class people, ‘downshift’ to the country or somewhere else they don’t need to keep up with the Jones,’ we too can digitally downshift.

This weekend maybe, I’m going to give some serious thought as to how many accounts I really need. In the same way you might analyse your monthly spend, or do a spring clean, I’m going to give some real thought to which communities, rss feeds and widgets I really need in my life, if I’m to have one at all. Praise be to the Google God.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Producers of content and I

Meeting the creator of something you enjoy is great. The first time it happened to me was during my raving days at Peach (at the Camden Palace). I have such a vivid(ish) memory of listening to Graham Gold, Pete Tong, Judge Jules or someone else with an equally stupid name, play choons over the radio that would feature later that Friday evening.

Amidst bodies, stewing in bass and luminescence, I could and often did, stumble up to the raised stage and talk to the DJs. Granted, the conversation usually went something like, “Hey, hey, Armin Van Buuren? Yeah, I’ve got your new choon, yeah. It’s a blinder mate. This set is banging.”

The important thing to note, is the ease of access between a producer of content and the consumer. Had I been a bit more coherent and the music a little less loud, there’s no doubt in my mind that Armin and I could have discussed what exactly made his ‘choons so banging.’

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the interweb is not too dissimilar from Peach, albeit with less sick on the floor. So far, I’ve written about/to: Paul Barnett, Oddworld Inhabitants, Rachel Newsome, Aleks Krotoski and more. So what? People send fan mail all the time. Yes, but the difference is these people got back to me within moments (digitally speaking). I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with the creator/producer personally. It’s like texting 666 and having Satan reply but less scary.

The interweb: allowing producer and consumer closer than ever and its open all the time, not just on Fridays. The entry price is the same though.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Botanicalls Twitter

I used to be a big fan of Cacti. I had a prickly forest’s worth when I was younger. The problem with Cacti; you assume that they don’t need much water and so lapse into forgetting to give them any at all. A dead cactus looks infinitely more depressing than say, some withered flowers. They sort of implode and whole chunks fall off, until it starts to resemble some zombie/cactus hybrid.

If you have a propensity for being absent minded, never fear. Not since the invention of the automatic sprinkler have plants had a reason to give a collect, err, flowering.


"Botanicalls Twitter answers the question: What's up with your plant? It offers a connection to your leafy pal via online Twitter status updates that reach you anywhere in the world. When your plant needs water, it will post to let you know, and send its thanks when you show it love"

Now you can talk to your plants and they’ll talk back, albeit only when they want something. A bit like real people then.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Stage6 to close down, Pirates take another blow

Arrr, me hearties, these be bad times indeed.

From Surfthechannel forums:

"...In many ways, though, the service did succeed, beyond even our own initial expectations. Stage6 became very popular very quickly. We helped gain exposure for some talented filmmakers who brought great videos to the attention of an engaged community. We helped prove that it’s possible to distribute true high definition video on the Internet. And we helped broaden the Internet video experience by offering content that is compatible with DVD players, mobile devices and other products beyond the PC.

So why are we shutting the service down? Well, the short answer is that the continued operation of Stage6 is a very expensive enterprise that requires an enormous amount of attention and resources that we are not in a position to continue to provide. There are a lot of other details involved, but at the end of the day it’s really as simple as that."

One page interweb

As I understand it, prolonged surfing leads to a contracting of the muscles. This, as you can imagine, makes if very difficult to keep going time after time. There are ways to get around it, like taking up Yoga but frankly this analogy has run its course.

Web surfing, if people still use that expression, maybe it’s, speeding through the ether (net)? Anyway, I was having a conversation (a real one, with body language and everything) about the one page interweb. I mentioned before how watching news stories jump from widget to widget on my iGoogle page could send a person insane but through the madness, there came a sort of clarity, (not to be confused with ‘a moment of clarity’ ala alcoholics) a thought trail.

When first boot kicking my laptop to start, I used to execute a very Zen like and fluid movement (prepare for ultra geekness). Opening Firefox and then hitting command + T about five or six times, I needed only to type a few characters to see familiar web urls spring to life. Now I don’t bother. It’s not that I’ve suddenly become a technophobe or developed RSI I simply don’t need to.

All the pages I used to visit now have widgets for iGoogle. One page to rule them all, so to speak. My friends argued that Netvibes has a better interface…meh. Regardless, whatever into-your-face you favour, iGoogle has the cool changing panorama at the top of the page. In my more reflective moods I have the little fox who makes tea and goes fishing all in a quaint oriental backdrop, in my more ridicules moods I have the giant monster who works out and fights metal versions of himself whilst protecting an (oriental, I’m guessing) city. That’s genius.

Let the interweb come to you. Now I only venture out of my iGoogle high castle to hit the dreaded, sleep deprivating StumbleUpon button. I’m still working on the addiction. “Hello everyone, my name is Ben and I like to St-t-t-t-umble Upon.”

Friday, 22 February 2008

You feeling lucky, cyber/steam/bio/ punk?

With countless youth movements failing to bring down the establishment over the years, it follows that the establishment will remain a prominent force for the present and near future. Its proliferation might well lead us to…


Wrought from the pages of William Gibson, Alfred Bester, Bruce Sterling etc Cyberpunk brings together all the rebellious anti-corporate/government sentiment inspired by the Punk movement of the 70s but places it in a post-industrial dystopia where mega corporations, corruption and a breakdown in the social order are prevalent.

If you’ve seen Blade Runner, the Matrix (because we don’t talk about the other two, in the same way we don’t mention the second Star Wars trilogy) A Scanner Darkly or Ghost in the Shell, then you’ll have a good understanding of a cyberpunk tone and setting. If you imagine Cyberpunk as the daddy, then these sub-genres are its bastard, steamy, gene-spliced, offspring:


Often set in 19th century England or a world where steam power is still the main source of energy. They tend to be less obviously dark than cyberpunk, encapsulating more of the positive, arrogance of the Victorian era, well, among the Victorians at any rate.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, is a ‘what if’ Steampunk story. What if Charles Babbage succeeded in his ambition to build a mechanical computer and brought about the computer revolution a hundred years earlier? Suffice to say, Britain and the world become a very different place.


Is usually set in the present or the future where genetics have advanced to extraordinary and scary new heights. Often propagated by a megalomaniacal visionary. A good example of Biopunk; Bioshock and Gattaca.

There are more sub-genres but these are too niche-core to bother mentioning. Niche, a nicer way of saying lonesome.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Memex Trails

To understand what Mexmex Trails is, you need to decipher what it means: Memex or ‘Memory extender,’ was a theoretical proto-hypertext computer system that Vannevar Bush proposed in 1945 (wow, that sounded more geeky than I’d originally intended).

From Whackypedia:

“The MEMEX proposed by Bush would create TRAILS of links connecting sequences of microfilm frames, rather than links in the modern sense where a hyperlink connects a single word, phrase or picture within a document and a local or remote destination.”

There you have it, ‘Memex,’ memory extender and ‘trails,’ as in, links connecting media within a programme at a local and remote destination. Well, Microfilm did go out with the old spy movies after all.

What’s so cool about Memex Trails is that it lets you organise visually. My memory has always worked from a visual basis so it’s like having my grey goo on a screen staring back at me, a sort of cerebral mirror.

Memex Trails adjusts to how much stuff you’ve put into it, a bit like the difference between a mobile library and the British Library. You can zoom in or out to get a better perspective and no one’s trying to hand you pamphlets of any kind.

You can also drop stuff from way back to see where it fits. I put my first ever blog post and it was a strange site to see everything spread out with the relevant image and link components. Who knew I had so much spare time on my hands (help me).

It also doubles up as a calendar and schedule, with to-do lists and all the stuff you’d expect from a calendar that doesn’t want to be considered remedial.

But one of the most ingenious features is the ability to take your trails wherever you go. Via the Trails Network, you can carry a virtual suitcase and access your bits wherever you are, over the interweb. Syncing is the shit. I understand you can also use it as a collaboration tool but to be honest I have no friends so that doesn’t apply. But if I did, it’s visually a lot easier to navigate than trying to organise via BaseCamp or Outlook.

Don’t all rush over there as it’s still in puny Beta mode and that can be as fragile as premature parsnip but keep it in your memory extender for later.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Listening Post at the Science Museum

Listening Post is an art installation currently on display at the Science Museum in London. It allows visitors to see and hear thousands of four letter words (not just tourettes four letter words) as they are displayed on screens and ‘sung’ by synthesised voices from across the interweb.

From the BEEEEEB, “Sound artist Ben Rubin has programmed a voice synthesizer to create tones and sound effects that respond to shifts in the data-streams, building up a musical score of online activity.”

How scary would it be if you were there, mesmerized by the spectacle, and then in unison, all the voices said, “We are the Borg, resistance is futile!”

PixelJunk Eden

Name that doesn't make sense but sounds cool, check. Minimalist artistic direction, check. Abstract gameplay, check. Congratulations, you have an indie game. Is it art or wank, a fine line to be sure.

Addicted to Tech-anphet-thc-mean

'I got the shakes, real bad. I haven’t checked my messages in like…five minutes! Oh God! J…j…just a little bit of plastic, I just want the feel in my hand.' There has been a rise in ‘Techno’ addiction says Professor Nada Kakabadse of Northampton University.

When I first read this over at the BEEEEEEB, I thought she meant techno, as in the music. That would be a far more interesting story. Everyone knows you can get addicted to practically anything. Technology runs the same reward gambit that drinking, gambaling, drugs etc does.

“Bing” I just levelled up on some generic online game. Woot! Gimme more. ‘Bong’ I just got a new message on my Crackberry, who could it be? A new friend, a NEW friend on Myface!

An addiction to a music form, now that’s new. I’ve gone through many phases of musical appreciation, often renouncing all the others at one time or another but I’d never say I became addicted. I can become obsessed with just about anything but it’s a very fickle obsession, usually with a little segment of music or a line from a film. And goes as quickly as it came.

Techno addiction, beware the silicon!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

From my iGoogle tower I can see everything

With my iGoogle page I feel like Colin Laney in William Gibson’s, Bridge Trilogy. He has an innate ability to spot ‘nodes’ in the sea of information that is the interweb.

It only occurred to me yesterday when two stories originated in one widget and then spread like a virus to others. The first was a speculation that Toshiba were going to announce that HD DVD had officially lost against Sony’s, Blu-ray. This sprung up on Digg and a few hours later had spread to my guardian, BBC technology, Google technology and Wired widgets.

The next story to multiply was the announcement that BBC programs were to appear on iTunes. This proliferated in much the same way. This suggests that there are people out there getting paid to essentially watch what appears on other news sources and regurgitate them. I can do that too, gimme moolah!


What ever happened to Oddworld Inhabitants? A company that had such a clear and singular vision has all but disappeared. Before it became fashionable for companies like Virgin and Innocent Smoothies to talk to you like they were a slightly cooky mate, rather than a large corporation, Oddworld Inhabitants were churning out games that were so odd, they were almost normal.

The underlying theme throughout all the games is the idea of pending ecological disaster. Each Oddworld inhabitant can be split along the lines of Industrial, Native or Wildlife:

The Industrialists:

Consumed by greed, they relentlessly pick at the natural resources of Oddworld. Smoke belches out of smokestacks and cigar ends alike.


The wildlife species are caught in the middle, their major concerns are to eat and not to be eaten. They act as a sort of symbolism for Oddworld’s ecological health.


They are big believers in karma or as its known in Oddworld, Spooce. They’re simplistic means make them easy prey for the Industrial races.

I think what impresses me most about Oddworld is the attention to detail. Every element has been thought about to construct a believable and coherent but ultimately completely alien world. There are landscapes and industrial settings that at first glance look familiar but then you notice a sign saying something like, “death chamber, mind your step” or a carnivorous plant that can consume the equivalent of a camel.

Building an eco-system that interacts, a language (all be it simplistic) that the player could use to communicate with other 'inhabitants' and a cutting, black humor, all add to an immersive experience. The games are often steeped in satire, making blunt force trauma use of the analogy between man and his environment. Who knows, maybe being exposed to Abe’s Oddysee, Exoddus (that’s how they spell it) etc planted an ecologically minded seed in err, my mind. This is eco education the whoop ass way.

Abe’s Oddysee intro:

Abe’s Exoddus intro:

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Google Analytics tell me...

That searches for 'Jumper' and 'The Stars My Destination' have been bringing people to 'is alive' but specifically to this. Its no wonder, as Jumper was recently released with Hayden (my wooden acting killed the Star Wars trilogy) Christensen in the lead role. That's one I wouldn’t even think of streaming…maybe a urination stream.

Guitar Zeroes

I’ve talked about the dangers posed to you and others when trying to create music using console peripherals (Wiiii I’m DJ) and next in what seems to be a growing trend of geekness, a mod too far, comes the Guitar Zeroes.

The Guitar Zeroes have modified the guitar shaped controls from Guitar Hero and re-implemented them to generate original music rather than just keeping time with a pre-layed track. I can’t say I like their style but its certainly more interesting than a lot of the bland, guitar music that’s coming out of Terra recently.

Like the esteemed planner Adrian Jarvis would say, “Pretending the 80s and acid house didn’t happen isn’t an option anymore, yeah!”

In any case, rock out with these controller, axes…or something to that effect.

Public Relations (the web way)

From Surfthechannel:

Friday, 15 February 2008

Valentines: a catalyst for fear

It sneaked up on me, like some kind of love-starved stalker. I, like every other hapless idiot, was forced at heart point to do ‘the shop.’

Instead of boycotting Valentines, which might upset your significant udder, because, despite how independently minded you think you are, it’s harder than you think to break from the herd mentality (that sentence was longer than it needed to be). I mean how many people do you know boycott Christmas (excepting religious differences) apart from hardcore humbuggers?

So, this year I bought a potted plant, no, not the half dead ones you get in offices but a proper one with bulbs and everything. This was my stand against a) the waste buying cut flowers produces and b) the terrible working conditions that some of the countries these flowers are grown in.

Next, I refused to buy a card with so much as a heart on it. Hallmark certainly doesn’t need any more incentive to churn out shit. Instead I bought a very tasteful (I thought anyway) V&A card. Arts good, hearts bad.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Inferno of sound

‘Ohhh, I feel sick, my head is about to burst and my chest aches!’ That’s what we could all be gurgling on the floor of a restricted area coming near to you soon! As well as giving us Abba and Ikea, the Swedish manufacturer Indusec has now inflicted the ‘Inferno’ on the world.

The Inferno 'sound bar' emits a 125dB within a defined area. It causes nausea and physical aches.

It’s so effective that Indusec are selling them to the Russian government to protect their nuclear weapon depots. It looks like deaf mercenaries and terrorists might well have found their calling…figuratively speaking.

Got your own stash of nuclear grade plutonium? Well, the Inferno isn’t just for Federal governments with oil and gas money to burn. You too can afford one of these sound, death rays for the ‘ridiculous’ price of $1,800. That’s about £914.

As well as the former Sov Block, Boots is also planning to install the Inferno throughout all their shops. Never has a trip to buy shampoo seemed so hazardous.

Monday, 11 February 2008

What is the value of a commercial award?

Is there still a need for commercial/industry awards? Catching the very end of the Baftas ’08, I couldn’t help thinking, what are commercial/industry awards really for? I came to two conclusions: firstly, as a means to celebrate the achievements of a group of people for doing something outstanding in their medium. Secondly, as a means of promotion I.e. ‘that film has got three more shiny gold stickers than the other one, I’m gonna get this one, errrrr.’

Adulation and recognition: If you’ve worked on something whether it be a film, game, online media etc Providing your not an egomaniac and manage to keep a level head, you should be fully aware if the end product is any good. Working on something for a long time can begin to warp your mind, this is always a danger but regardless, you should still be able to say, ‘well, we had good intentions but clients, investors, time, technology, were against us.’

Scratch the first off then. The second reason for there existence is as a sort of aggregate or filter for the general populace, but this is simply not necessary anymore. I’ve talked about StumbleUpon or Current TV as filters for content that are ‘people powered’ or software like Amazon’s profiler, that learns your likes and dislikes.

I used to be a bit of an anime philistine, apart from the Miyazaki films and some other well knowns but joining a forum of intelligible people and not just adolescents and fanboys screaming across the virtual airwaves, ‘fuckin n00b, Guyver owns all youz.' A quick glance and I got three or four series titles that have turned out to be very good indeed. Maybe I'm just jealous, after all, the only award I've ever one was a plastic medal for a year nine swimming gala.

Regardless, lets get rid of commercial awards, for as Dave Birss once said, “We’re not curing cancer, we’re just coming up with ideas.”

Friday, 8 February 2008

The Mighty Boosh, spiritual successor to Nathan Barley?

They’ve both got actors Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt in common. They’re both set in London. One is definitely more surreal than the other and yet despite this, they both satirise a particular segment of society so well its scary.

Nathan Barley is funny even if you’re unfamiliar with Hoxditch. However, it takes on new meaning if you’ve ever been on a night out or worked there. Capturing what was the hobo yuppies, creative businesses and surrounding artistic community scene of 2005. Lets have a peek through the looking glass:

The Mighty Boosh, when grounded in some reality, tends to focus more on the drainpipes, black eyeliner and hair sculpted to casual perfection, movement. Small contingents of these can be found in Shoreditch but they are more prevalent in Camden:

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Oh, a Fuelmyblog member are you, mmmm?

I’ve been accepted into the exclusive Fuelmyblog community. How it warrants being called 'exclusive' is a mystery. I mean, they let me in and I’ve never belonged to any club, ever…except the Lego Club. Does that count?
I think everyone can sympathise with the pain of stepping barefoot on a discarded Lego block but the Lego Club repaid that pain debt in full. They remembered my birthday every year till I was ten. Will you do the same Fuelmyblog?

Ashes to Ashes from LIFE that used to be ON MARS

The shrieking of nothing is killing. Just pictures of jap girls in synthesis and I aint got no money and I aint got no hair but I’m hoping to kick but the planet its glowing.” Indeed. Once again Bowie has inspired another TV series as surreal and entertaining as his lyrics. I’ve just finished watching the first episode of Ashes to Ashes, the Life on Mars spin off. It’s a promising start.

First episode down and there are questions galore: Why has the protagonist been sent back to 1981? Why have Gene Hunt and co transferred from Manchester to London? Will Sam Tyler make an appearance? I suppose this is what J.J Abrams refers to as the ‘mystery box.’ I still think all that gel he puts on has seeped through and clogged up his neural pathways. Until the series finishes and warrants reflection, lets reminisce.

Edit: Here's a promo

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

New bits and bobs

I hope you’ll notice all the new ‘pwnd’ features on the side bar. We have a rss feed, an email notification box, a Technorati button, a del.ici.ous button and the Word Shrapnel tag list. Please enjoy the 'Word Shrapnel' list, after all, tags are the blogging equivalent of 40” rims.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Hearts and minds: Death Note, Samurai Champloo and SAC

They are juvenile, sexiest and derivative. So said my significant udder of comics and anime. Like some crazy eyed profit or oil hungry, industrial-military complex spokesman, I managed to convert her, on the first one at least. It’s the same for everything you care to think of; some people just don’t get poetry, others football, some, God. The old strategy of, ‘try it, you might like it’ or ‘all the cool kids are doing it’ doesn’t always work. Instead you need to think deeply about what peoples' conceptions are and how you can offer them something unexpected.


Full of spandex wearing, self righteous, never doubting, muscle bound idiots. This is still the case, you need only venture to the subterranean, B.O den, that is the Forbidden Planet in Soho to see that the best selling comics are still the ones that would make anyone except an adolescent boy, shudder.

However, there is many a comic that is the polar opposite. Alan Moore’s, Watchmen or the same panelled smack I got my significant udder hooked on, Fables, are both examples of what this medium can achieve. I highly recommend the later, for its wit, post-modernity and incredible artistic style as penned by James Jean. These two titles combined should be enough to shift the opinion of even the most entrenched book burner.


Spiky haired, shrill voiced, large breasted, cretins. It’s a cliché because there is some truth to it. Three animes that are, if not completely removed from this stereotype but still manage to stand out: Death Note, Samurai Champloo and Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is based on the feature film from back in the cyber day. It’s still essentially a cyber punk, neo noir, set in a post World War IV Japan. It’s like a cop drama with sharp dialogue and a mastermind villain that uses 'people hacking' and the web itself to inflict terrorism.

Death Note is the typical story of a seventeen-year-old boy. Light is the number one student in his country, bored with his mundane life and sickened with a world he sees as falling into depravity. Who hasn’t been bored or sickened? Thing is, we didn’t find a notebook which was dropped by a Shinigami or death god, that resembles an emancipated Goth.

The deal is you can kill whomever you like as long as you know their name and can picture their face. Just scribble it down in the Death Note and they will die in the next forty seconds. For our anti-hero this a god send, literally. He begins a reign of righteous judgement on criminals with the intention that a new world will be born out of his actions where only the pure of heart will live and he shall preside as a God.

Things are never that simple and soon enough, the MAN in the form of the police, start to see a pattern. Unable to gleam any leads they hire the mysterious L, a freelance detective that has solved some of the world’s greatest crimes. And so the stage is set for a battle of wits that will ultimately end in the death of one of the combatants. Death Note has some of the best deductive thinking employed in a drama I have ever seen. It sets a new standard for what we consider a horror/thriller. Talk about moral ambiguity.

Like a rapper armed with a katana, Samurai Champloo slices its way through Edo period Japan. Samurai Champloo is considerably lighter hearted than the other two. It’s the story of a criminal that employs break dancing into his fighting style, a ronin samurai with verbal barbs that cut as deep as his blade and an ever-loveable protagonist in search of ‘the samurai that smells like sunflowers.’

Champloo, means mash up or mix up so that the title translates as Samurai mash up. This is as good an indication of what the format of the show is than anything. Despite, the technology and architecture both being strongly entrenched in the Edo period of Japan, the language, characters and society is an amalgamation of modern day Tokyo and West Coast hip-hop culture. This connection can be over used at times, like when a scene shakes with the accompanying sound of a record scratching as a means to cut to another character somewhere else. Still, funny lines, excellent action scenes as timed to a hip-hop soundtrack all amount to an nteresting amalgamation. Lets go win some hearts and minds.