Monday, 31 March 2008

That was scary

I met a friend today in (achingly trendy, thanks a lot Simon Pegg, you’ve ruined it) Crouch End. We went for tea at Hot Pepper Jelly, one of the last bastions of non-smugness left in the area. Apart from nearly exploding after drinking, what was advertised as a ‘large pot’ of green tea but turned out to be a bladder and half worth’s, we reminisced about stuff we’d watched as mere amoebas.

I confirmed I'd watched Dark Crystal by involuntarily shouting ‘Gelfling’ really loudly, in what is a fairly small cafĂ©. The Storyteller with, (how many fingers am I holding up?) John Hurt and sibling rivalry taken to the extreme with Labyrinth. What have they all got in common? That’s right, nerd herd, twas Jim Henson.

The Dark Crystal is still a pretty scary film even now but Jim Henson’s works are darker than the endless dark that occupies the void under the garden decking. You can discount the Muppets obviously, unless you have an irrational fear of talking animals and who doesn’t, have you ever seen a furry up close?

Anyway, my friend and I both admitted to being scared if not unsettled by watching these puppeteered performances as children. Which lead on to another question. What will I show my own hell spawn? I settled pretty quickly on Miyazaki over Disney. I think Miyazaki has just the right level of poo your pantsness but deals with adult or what are essentially real life themes like, love, death, taking a stand, fighting monsters both metaphorical and physical, in a universal way that both adult and child can understand. After all, none of us really grow up. So, big love to Jim Henson and Miyazaki (his son is a bit rubbish though)

I just discovered that Genndy Tartakovsky is making a sequel to the Dark Crystal. Geek out!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Darren Almond, Fire Under Snow, Parasol Unit

Two pieces at Darren Almond’s new show transfixed my philistine mind: ‘Tide’ and ‘Bearing.’ You encounter the first as soon as you walk into the Parasol Unit. A completely bare room greets you with large white walls, in a gallery? No way. Taking up one of the vast walls is a sea of clocks. Not the friendly clocks with hands but those evil ones that clack. They’re not intrinsically evil but fill me with the horror of being forcibly pulled from a pleasant dream or the soul-destroying nature of working at some large corporation as a temp.

This ‘Tide’ of clocks sound off every minute with a near deafening ‘clack.’ 600 clocks clacking in unison is one of the more disturbing noises you’re likely to hear off Hoxditch. Almond has succeeded in managing to isolate abstract time but whether it was his idea to put the receptionist in the same room facing this ‘sculpture to inevitability,’ is uncertain. Probably a sadistic curator was involved.

‘Bearing’ takes naming to a new level. You sit in a dark room with only the glare of a large protection illuminating the inquisitive faces of the public. You watch as a worker in an Indonesian sulphur mine makes his way up, what seems like a never-ending mountain, with only a rag to cover his mouth from the toxic air. It’s as real as recorded reality can get.

His climb and the shot are relentless. A camera is constantly fixed to the worker’s face. You hear the strain of his breathing, the creaking of the bamboo carrier, loaded with large sulphur rocks. Its easily one of the most intense things I’ve seen in a recorded format. I’d not noticed how much an effect watching commercial films, TV, ads etc makes on a subconscious expectation for fast cuts, commentary, feedback, something.

You could see the viewers’ distress when they realised it was going to remain one unflinching shot. Every once in a while the worker stops and lays his load down and peeks into the distant height of his destination but as viewers you have no idea of the true distance left. The film lasts 30 minutes.

It reminded me of a new religion in one of Phillip K Dick’s short stories, ‘The Little Black Box.’ People watch a ‘man’ named Wilbur Mercer on 'Empathy Boxes.' Like the Indonesian worker, Mercer traverses a never-ending desolate landscape. No one is quite sure why he’s doing it, but all who watch empathise with his struggle:

"N-nothing." Ray continued to grip the handles. On the screen, Wilbur Mercer walked slowly over the barren, jagged surface of a desolate hillside, his face lifted, an expression of serenity - or vacuity - on his thin, middle-aged features... To Joan, he explained, "This is the empathy box, my dear... when you take hold of these handles you're no longer watching Wilbur Mercer. You're actually participating in his apotheosis. Why, you're feeling what he feels."

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Homemade Jelly

For the last few months I’ve been freelancing and whilst this does have some benefits: not getting on the evil tube crush, being able to work in a dressing gown, popping out to see friends for tea etc there are some serious drawbacks. The lack of (during the day) social contact comes top.

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to meet friends for lunch, as they live near by, but if they didn’t, I’d see no one…for days.

I have no illusions that I will become Jack Nicholson in The Shinning after a day or two, but other ‘workomers’ and their psyches might yet be saved via Jelly:

Hungry eyes

Ever get the feeling that eyes in an image are following you? This is the next step in that creepy evolution:

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

For the love of Skype

Love and relationships can be tricky at the best of times but with the advent of SMS, Skype, social networking etc completely new levels of love ratdom can be achieved. Below is a pod from Current TV:

David Simon

The Wire has been praised ad nauseum over the interweb so I'll simply say, I can't find a single fault with the program. The creator of The Wire, David Simon gives a talk about 'the end of the American empire.' Why hasn't he been invited to talk at TED?

Google results envy

When I first started this blog I was way back on page nine and now only a small child, an associate tutor and a very talented comic book artist stand in my way. This is how Machiavelli must have felt.

From what I understand of Google Organic the small child is ranked higher due to the amount of times his name appears across the site, that or he’s got a massive family all linking to him like the Borg collective. The associate tutor must have many an enamored student linking to his profile. The comic book artist invariably has a small army of fan boys linking, discussing and gushing over his works.

Why even bother to disclose this information? I dunno, I didn’t care until I was so bored over the egg’s weekend that I Google smacked my name. Now the top is so close I can type it. The first two seem beatable. As for the comic artist you’ve got a digital David and Goliath thing going on. I’ve changed the title of this blog in an effort to make some in roads. We shall see if Google is a kind mistress in a few days or if I decide to grow up.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


My TV sits in the corner like that annoying person at parties, the one you try and avoid for fear of being trapped in a boring vortex. Poor TV, no longer are you the gateway to entertainment, learning and zoning out, well maybe the last one still holds true.

I can only think of three instances when I watch TV programs/the screen on the actual TV set:

1) Current TV – Although the quality of content on Current far surpasses that of say YouTube or the others, like Youtube et all I can’t watch it for hours on end via my laptop. I don’t know why. Maybe the screen isn’t big enough. Or maybe it’s the sentimental part of me that desperately wants something my long-standing friend TV and I can enjoy together.

2) Hung-over: When hung-over I’ve been known to watch appalling dross like, America’s Next Top Model, The Girls of the Playboy Mansion, Vanity Lair and many more programmes that if you watched in full sobriety you’d think humanity had actually taken an evolutionary step backwards.

3) Games! Well, not really anymore. Due to a sort of conscious objection (and lack of funds) I opted out of the ‘next gen’ console war. I’ve only had my DS and aging PS2 for company. That same sentimentality organ, that’s inoperable by the way, started secreting and I began to play some of my old PS2 games. “Lo, these games really do not bare another play through,” I thought.

So, providing I stop drinking, learn to watch Current on my laptop and finally get rid of my PS2, my TV really will become a monolith of a by gone era.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Comparison radar 04

There was one vital bit that links this comparison that I couldn’t get a hold of. The connection was a clip from an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory entitled Ultrajerk 2000. Dexter builds a Hal 9000 style robot to help him but the robot, like its inspiration, malfunctions and attempts to take over the lab and kill Dexter. The connection between Hal 9000 and GLaDOS (from Portal) was in that episode of Dexter. Ultrajerk is a visual half waypoint between Hal and GLaDOS but you’ll have to take my word for it.

Hal 9000


Monday, 17 March 2008

Digital protesting vs physical protesting

It’s the fifth anniversary since the start of the Iraq war, or at least it will be on Thursday. No doubt you will have caught one program in the plethora of Iraq, ‘where are we now, that’s right, just showing you this so you can keep tabs,’ season.

I went on a, what should have been called ‘Leave the Middle East alone, they all cool’ rally but was in fact called, the less catchy, 'Troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq, don’t attack Iran and stop the oppression of the Palestinian people’ rally. Phew. I think my name is better. Anyway, it was a miserable day, raining and freezing but there was still a pretty good turn out.

Speeches were made, some better than others. I took particular offence at a speech given by ‘the girl that organized all dem walk outs at schools before the invasion and ting.’ She sounded as if she’d just been pushed out on stage rambling on about, ‘nukes were bad and so was America, yeah, that’s right, cos, eeer, um, they’ve got like a military industrial complex init.’

That evening I had a discussion about the effectiveness of public protests. I went on the million people march before the war and here we are reflecting on the five-year anniversary. Since that time, Green Peace, Amnesty and others have petitioned me via the interweb.

Click here to add your name to a petition to stop such and such. And lo, a few weeks later I’d receive an email explaining that the petition was a big success and bill x was passed in the House of Commons. Wow, direct, digital protest and it works.

Despite the meagre coverage the protest on Saturday got, having pictures of Parliament Square packed with protesters still makes the hairs on my hunch back stand up on end. The moment it looks like people don't care enough to take to the streets will be the day that those who have the power to change something will have nothing to convince them to do so. The only difference now is there are two mediums to get your protest across, each feeding the other. Protesting in the flesh is still more fun...for now

Friday, 14 March 2008

Comparison radar 03

What's this? The Tabula Rasa launch trailer and that ingenious, news-reel style footage from Starship Troopers bare more than a passing resemblance?

Comparison radar 02

Watching the second trailer for the Iron Man film you could be mistaken, if you were of proper geek breeding, that you were in fact watching the teaser trailer for Starcraft 2. The former will of course be utter Red Leicester but if anyone can convincingly portray an arrogant, alcoholic on the big screen, I trust in Robert Downey Jr:

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Digital Bushcraft

It’s got to the point now where I can predict, with quite some accuracy, plot developments, which adverts signify a return to ‘normal’ programming and lines of script from any given TV show(s). I attribute this freakish and frankly useless power to being raised by television. When I was younger the Internet wasn’t the shiny, interactive, social cohesion platform it is today. It was more like web 0.5 than web 2.0.

The biggest technical advancement in my home was the advent of cable television provided by the now long debunked Cable London (who’s logo incidentally was a kind of Pac man made out of dots). Anyway, I remember the first day well. No longer would I have to succumb to the schedules of the tyrannical, terrestrial channels. I could watch cartoons well beyond the 4.30 – 5 cut off point.

Stranger still, my dad tells me that I passed a test on Shakespeare with flying colours despite never having read any of his plays all thanks to the brain melting box. I suppose it follows that if I was retaining information from TV, on another level I was learning the conventions of television itself.

As the years progressed it became easier and easier to identify what kind of episode any given series would be trying out within the first few seconds. Would it be the evil twin, the protagonist being framed, death of a significant character, plot twist or redemption episodes? Hmm. I couldn’t tell you how I knew, I just did.

I could also accurately predict that when a Sky advert was shown the actual program would either start immediately after or depending on the length of said Sky advert there would be one very short ad immediately after. Ooooeeeeooooo.

So far we’ve talked about this ability as it relates to the confines of TV land, you can just imagine how much I’ve gone on to freak myself and those around me out since the advent of the interweb as we knew it a few years ago to the present day.

I find myself drawing connections to completely unrelated things from starkly different media. Apart from impressing geeks and scaring my significant other, whether this digital bushcraft; bringing wholly unrelated bits and combining them into something new, will every prove useful is still debateable.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Toiletron, guardian of the loo

Recycling today as this story has already featured on Digg. Using Aviary, the toilets below have been combined to create a potent, porcelain, powerhouse. Whether Aviary is as powerful as the Spark is anyone's guess:

Monday, 10 March 2008

If you Stumble, you might Tumblr

I’m finding I like Tumblr more and more. It’s like giving someone the ability to unscrew my bulbous scalp and stare directly at the pulsating, grey goo encased within. Through the useful ‘share on Tumblr’ button, everything I come across is posted directly on to my personal Tumblr page.

How’s this different from submitting stuff to your Facebook account you say? Or maybe you don’t but lets go with it anyway. Whereas submitting stuff to Facebook is somewhat lame due to the space it takes up in your mini feed, Tumblr allows you to connect several RSS feeds directly, turning a Tumblr page into a sort of, cyber, stream of consciousness. I get all my Twitter,, Flickr etc updates put on there, plus, any interesting stuff I find randomly through StumbleUpon.

My Tumblr page is comprised of a nonsensical collection of random oddities. A bit like my mind, no, very much like my mind. Where Twitter allows you to post thoughts and actions this allows images, videos and links to be posted directly, thus making it one seamless cerebral experience. Like I said before, it’s as if someone is taking a gander at my grey matter…and I kind of like it.

Stumble spotting

I was using some else’s StumbleUpon account for a good few hours the other day. After sticking at this for a while, sites that I know I’d submitted into the err, stumble sphere started popping up. I’d gone full circle.

There does seem to be an intrinsic flaw with StumbleUpon: My significant udder initially ticked ‘arts’ as her only topical preference. After an hour or so of stumbling she had run out of new pages. This says to me a) I’m a sado b) StumbleUpon needs users to be constantly adding new sites, and c) StumbleUpon truly is worse than crack.

Friday, 7 March 2008

A brief history and future of the interweb

The voice over in the Epic video is ultra cheese but more worryingly, the tone sounds very similar to the Zion mainframe...the robots are coming.

EPIC 2015


Double Agent at the ICA

Oh noes, its time for another I’m not dead art review, if you’re a connoisseur prepare to inflate your philistine poison sacks. Of the five-ish years I’ve been indoctrinated into the art world, via my significant udder, the ICA has almost uniformly proffered up wank. I’ve never been one to complain, it is, after all, only two pounds to get in. So, given my history and prejudice towards the place, I thought Double Agent was going to be equally lame. But lo, it was actually surprisingly thought provoking, imaginative and enjoyable.

Take Dora Garcia’s ‘Instant Narrative’ well, I say Garcia’s but she wasn’t actually there, she hired writers in her stead (sneaky). You walk into a large white room. It’s completely enclosed apart from the doorway you came through and what looks like a slim exit on the far side. A projection of prose immediately grabs your jaded attention. New text is constantly added as you start to read, so far so arty but then in a Truman Show/Stranger than Fiction epiphany you realise the text is about you.

“Two people walk into the room. One has a three quarter length jacket. They look ok, better than the last lot. I wonder if they’ll kick up as much of a fuss. He’s laughing nervously, she’s enjoying the spotlight.” And so on. It’s a bizarre and unsettling experience. Becoming the unwilling subject feels like the reverse of the jubilation felt by accepted reality TV candidates. I unconsciously stepped backwards so I’d be out of the line of sight of the now identified writer hiding the shadows of the next exit.

The other piece of note is Artur Zmijewski’s video, ‘Them.’ Zmijewski organises a paint workshop to which he invites four groups: Christians, Jews, Young Socialists and Polish nationalists, who are then encouraged to respond to each group’s symbolic depiction of its values.

This starts off civilly enough, each group being tentative about what they change. Initially a young socialist cuts open the doors on the polish church the Christian’s have painted. The Christian’s like the idea of the church doors being open and more welcoming. The Polish Jews rap rainbow tape over the sword that represents the Polish nationalist’s symbol and so on.

It’s not until the fourth day by which point the Polish Nationalist’s symbol has been torn, stamped on, painted over and the Young Socialist’s symbol saying ‘freedom for all’ has been painted over to say, God, Fatherland, Strength that things invariably start to go into meltdown.

I expected but was still surprised to see natural alliances form between the Christians and Polish Nationalists. What surprised me even more was the reverence the Church painting had. It was only in the last heated ideological battle fought with paint and fire that the church painting had the words, ‘we demand tolerance’ strewn across it. In any case, I usually never sit through a full video in a gallery space so that alone should encourage you to go see it.

Double Agent runs till the 6th of April

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Making the transition to full digitlism

Do you want to save paper by not reading magazines or newspapers, don’t want smug idiots from a by gone authority like the NME telling you what to listen to, had enough of barely, brain celled DJs, blathering on radio, wish to squash inflated TV personalities? Embrace the digital alternative:

Music –, Pandora (to a lesser extent Myspace)
News – BBC news site/widget, Guardian news site/widget, New Statesmen/widget, Current TV etc

T.V/Films – quicksilverscreen, surfthechannel, videolemon, alluc, BBC iPlayer, 4OD, torrents etc

This is just the tip of the digital iceberg. Lets ban smugness now.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

I miss point and click adventure games

Deep and complex stories driven by genius dialogue, investigatory/ problem solving game play, fantastic sprite based art and some genuinely catchy midi soundtracks made point and click adventure games a completely different experience from what many would play today (except maybe on the DS).

Considering I learnt to read playing these gems, that alone should be enough to silence any nay-sayers who think children should be reading, ‘and Jill sat on a red mat while she wore a blue hat.’ It's counter productive, believe me. Saying that, my speech patterns may have differed from the other children, slightly. Some firm favourites:

Monkey Island 2

Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis

Dark Seed

Grim fandango

Chained to Boho

There is a pub in Sohoboho called the Pillars of Hercules. It’s very narrow bordering on the claustrophobic but this is forgiven when compared to its opposite number on Charring Cross road, The Montagu Pyke, a concentration of chain bar aesthetic mixed with cynical marketing ploys.

Anyway, The Pillars of Hercules, apart from the name, has next to nothing to do with Greek Mythology, that is to say there’s not even any faux statues or terrible epic paintings decorating the nicotine stained insides.

Something that has everything to do with Greek Mythology albeit in a round about sort of way, is the excellent God of War series. The latest has been released on the PSP. Enjoy the review:

Monday, 3 March 2008

Super Mario Source Engine

I like finality, some people don't. This is what can spring out of fanboyism, creativity and homage: