Category Archives: Stuff

LGG soon + photos


Fluffy signets. Aww!

Guess where I went earlier?

Click for bigger

I’ve never been to Stonehenge before, but myself and friends were nearby earlier today (well… that should be ‘yesterday’ as I’m typing this at just gone 1am) so I figured that now would be a good time. It was disappointing to not be able to go closer to the stones, but also understandable, there were hundreds of people there.

The heaviest stone weighs over 40 tonnes and had been transported over 200 miles around 5000 years ago, that’s about the same weight as seven elephants, and stone is considerably more stubborn when you’re trying to get it to move. At least elephants can be bribed when, for example, you need to get them out of your mini. Goodness knows how they moved those rocks. It’s seriously impressive stuff, but loses some of the impact for you not being able to stand among them. It’s a bit like having a cathedral and never being allowed to go inside. I feel a bit better about myself for having seen it now. It’s one of those things that is part of Britain but you just never really get around to going to see. I really should go back to the Tower of London at some point.

I think when you live in a place it’s easy to not bother appreciating the things that you have around you and Stonehenge has been on my list for a long time of ‘things that I really should see’. That’s one more thing that I’ve done now!

Myself, Sues, and a friend called Sarah recorded the voice-over for the new Little Goth Girl episode on Friday. I’ll be spending most of tomorrow working on editting that down to usable sections (we were laughing rather a lot). I think it’s going to be good! I’ve still not decided on what music to use yet. There won’t be a continual soundtrack, but a few little bits here-and-there will add to the piece I think.

‘Hope you’re all having good weekends!

GPS Tron!

How cool does this look?

GPS Tron

In other news, the animation side of the new Little Goth Girl episode is nearly done, so now it’s just the sound left to do.

I also have been allowed onto the beta test of the new Flash software, codenamed 8Ball. Sadly, I’m not really allowed to tell you anything about it, but I can confirm that it is very, very cool!

Short films

If you have seven or eight minutes to spare then you could do a lot worse than take in a short film:

Tribeca Screening Room

I’ve only watched ‘Street Therapy’, but I really enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed short films. I’ve seen a few full-length feature films that would probably have been better if they’d been cut down to this length!

Façade + News

This sounds like an interesting experiment: Façade: a one-act interactive drama

Essentially it’s a 15 minute drama where the characters have AI and language recognition so they will adapt their behaviour to your input. I’ve emailed them to request a copy. I’ll let you know when I’ve had a go on it.

The new Little Goth Girl episode is progressing well. I’m not likely to make my hoped task of finishing it within a week of starting it, which would be tomorrow, but it is quite far along. The scenes will look quite simple when they’re done, but they have some nice small details and it’s adding those that takes the time. Anyway, I’m thinking that it will be ready by Monday next week. It probably won’t have a soundtrack, or at most it will be minimal music, so that helps speed-up the post-animation time.

I’m having a meeting with my tutors about the most recent chapter of my thesis tomorrow. I’m a little nervous because I wrote it using the Mind Manager software to help me arrange my ideas, so the flow might be different to previous chapters. I think it’s good, but I’ll soon know their impressions.

UK people: Watch ‘McLibel’ tomorrow

A brilliant documentary about the McLibel trial will be shown on BBC2 tomorrow (Sunday 4th June) at 10:30pm. I saw it a couple of months ago on BBC4 and it really is far more interesting than any documentary about a legal case should be.

For those of you who don’t know about the case, here’s a quick rundown:

Essentially: Two campaigners produce a leaflet accusing McDonald’s of all kinds of nasty things. McDonald’s weren’t very happy about this and took them to court, expecting the two to roll over and beg. Despite there, at the time, being no legal aid for people in libel cases (a law which has now been changed as a result of the McLibel trial) the two decided to fight their case… And, from a very valid perspective, won.

There were multiple issues involved, and the two won on the most important ones, and probably should have on a couple of others, but were still ordered to pay damages. Not surprisingly, after the amount of negative press they received for the trial, McDonald’s has made no effort to collect the fine.

It’s a story that is just so improbable that if it were not for the facts would seem too far-fetched to be true. But it is true. Watch the documentary, and decide (if you already haven’t) that you never want to let that junk in your system.

Here’s some feedback from the BBC4 showing a while back:

Tech support fun + a little clarification

install drivers
Click for bigger!

Something was pointed out by Sean in the comments from yesterday’s post about The Matrix trilogy that I felt I should clear up: I realise that most people really don’t like the second and third Matrix films, and cinematically I think that the Wachowski brothers made a lot of mistakes. Things went on too long, there was a lot of politics that no-one really is that interested in, there are some very distinct crunching gear changes, and the orchestral soundtrack could have been more inspired… But I still like them. I like action movies, and I like people at least attempting to do something more intelligent than your average film. I think most people went to see the second and third films wanting action but instead they got a load of philosophy. I was fine with that, because that was what I was looking for, but for many the strands of action and talking just didn’t meld.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing! It’s a shame that a great first film couldn’t be followed with the same melding of action, energy, and narrative that it had achieved but I still enjoyed them. I think the choice of commentaries in the box-set is brave (after all, what other official film has a commentary by people who don’t like it?) but also very telling: the philosophers like it, the people who are approaching it as purely a cinematic experience don’t. That was the problem, it’s just down to whether you are prepared to look at what the films do manage or not, but still whether you choose to do that or not is in no way a reflection of you ‘intelligence’, just what your tastes are in life. I know that I have some obscure interests, so don’t expect everyone to share them, and it is those that make me like the films, not some ‘greater understanding’, just a different one.

There is a risk of real snobbishness when it comes to taste, but that’s just daft. I personally find ‘The Shining’ rather dull, and I think that ‘Gladiator’ is one of the most cold and boring pieces of cinema I’ve seen. That’s just taste for you, what floats one boat won’t work for another. It’s all part of the grand pattern of life, not a sign of one person having ‘better taste’ in regards to art.

ID cards and what I’m working on

What exactly is the benefit of an ID card over a passport or other existing forms of ID? It’s pretty common knowledge that there will be some form of biometric data stored on passports in the future, so what will be different about an ID card? I fail to see how this bit of plastic will be of any benefit to the general population any more so than the other bits of ID currently available.

When I started a business bank account I had to produce several bits of information to prove who I am, the main one of which was my passport. This proves pretty much without question who I am. Some might argue that the new ID cards will be harder to forge than passports, but exactly what is the point of putting this new infomation all onto one card then, why not simply upgrade the security on passports?

The current arguement being given is that ID cards will prevent ‘identity theft’. This is a load of hogswash (and that is also an excellent word that I suggest you attempt to fit into conversation at some point today). Most ID theft occurs through media such as online transactions or in shops, neither of which have the facilities to confirm the data on an ID card. Given the resistence of the British public to using PIN numbers in shops instead of their signature it’s safe to say that they would hate having their retina scanned every time! Not to mention the simple fact that the technology just isn’t reliable or cheap enough yet.

So what would an ID card help with? Catching terrorists apparently… Although I fail to see how. Unless you make it a crime for people to not carry their cards (potentially making millions of people every day into criminals) then there is no reason to go around stopping people you don’t like the look of and demanding their card. Next, benefit fraud… well, apparently the current system of having a social security number isn’t working well enough, so how about using passports? We already have a system of identification in place that could handle this need, so why do we need to spend all this money on a new one? More on the false finances behind ID cards here.

There are many other drawbacks that I don’t really have the time to write about here, not least because I want to get on with my new animation. It’s going to be a Little Goth Girl episode when it’s finished. I’m hoping to do it in a single week, which might be rather amibitious, but we’ll see!

Haven’t they got something better to be doing?

As most of the web seems to already be aware, Elite Torrents has been shut down. I never used the site, so I can’t say I’m really too fussed, except for one thing:

Why is the Department of Homeland Security bothering to fuss around with a torrent site when they haven’t even bothered to secure their chemical and power plants from legitimate terrorist threats?

I don’t like being the kind of person who goes for the knee-jerk ‘but what about the terrorists?’ answer to everything, but if the US government is going to be arguing that terrorism is the greatest threat to their country and invading other nations (who are conveniently oil-rich) on this basis then you’d think that they might be able to set their own internal priorities on this track instead of wasting their time trying to shut down P2P networks, which in themselves may yield valuable software developments to survive in the event of a serious attack on a nation.

The internet was originally designed to be a distributed network with a high rate of redundancy (notice how I’m avoiding make post-dot com bubble jokes here) so that in the event of a nuclear strike on the US the communications networks would survive. Well, in the last few years things have become a lot less distributed with things like DNS being run from only a handful of main location, so something like P2P may be a legitimate method of thinking about new ways to use the internet for communication, or at least it may open some new and interesting avenues.

Yes, copyright theft is still theft. I own one film that was downloaded from the web. It is Chronicles of Riddick (UK link) (US link) and I saw it before it was released in the UK. I then saw it at the cinema when it was released. I then bought the US version (with extra scenes which I think are really good additions to the story) on import DVD. I wouldn’t necessarily have gone to see it at the cinema if I hadn’t already seen and enjoyed the downloaded version. I also dragged along a group of friends to see it. So… That’s a clear example of how piracy damages the movie industry, isn’t it? After all, they must have lost out if I saw a pirate version…

Sometimes giving things out for free gets you more money in the long run. IBM are moving into making a lot of their code free for people to use because they think it will help the industry and they hope to make their money back by selling tech support. There are more ways to get money from ‘free’ things than meet the eye, so maybe the film industry just needs to adapt to the times instead of fighting against them which will leave the Department of Homeland Security time to do their real job rather than scampering around behind the legs of flocks of copyright lawyers.

Pah! Letters are for wimps!

This is great: Das Keyboard

It’s a keyboard where they haven’t printed any of the letters on it. Sounds stupid? Well, it’s not as daft as you might think. The mind can learn to type incredibly well without looking at the keys, and this keyboard forces you to do that.

I was in the US a few years ago, staying at the Green Tortoise hostel in San Francisco. It’s a very interesting building in a good location, but the people behind the desk in the hostel seemed to believe that they were too good for the job and gave terrible service, they’ve most likely graduated by now so it’s probably fine again. I figure that if you’re going to take a job then you’ve got to be prepared to do it, rather than sneer when given a reasonable request such as ‘my luggage was lost by the airline three days ago, can you please let me know as soon as it arrives’. Anyway…

I was in the US a few years ago, staying at the Green Tortoise hostel in San Francisco, and they had free internet access there, however, one of the keyboards had been in service for so many years that all the print had worn off of it. That was some seriously old hardware! I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to use it, but I found that if I just made sure to continue staring at the screen then my fingers would naturally find the key that they were looking for. It was quite and odd feeling really!

So, if you fancy showing off at the next LAN party you go to, then this is the keyboard for you. If you like that sort of thing. And it’s probably very 1337. If you like that sort of thing.

Making plans

So, it’s a tricky thing to make a living like this, which means that I’ve spent my day putting together a whole load of new designs for bags and T-shirts. The nice people at Blue Banana have said that they want to expand the range, so I’m giving them some Mittens and Samurai Lapin designs (sorry, nothing with Mr Sb on at the moment). I have no idea how long it will take to get them into shops, but it will probably be around four or five months.

Anyway, they’re not going to design themselves, so I’ll get back to it. See ya!

Do you know this man?

How unusual:

the piano man

A man has been found, apparently traumatised and who will not talk, but who is an accomplished piano player.

I’ve got two thoughts on this, my hopeful reaction is that this is a melancholy story. My cynical side suggests that he could be putting it on so that he will become famous. I await the movie adaptation.

Partying like 1999, music, and books.

It’s amazing how a piece of music can really remind you of old times.

In 1999 I went to The Burning Man (warning: link may contain images of nudity!) festival in Nevada. It seemed that almost every camp there was playing a track with a wonderful soaring string section. I found out that it was a band that I’d barely even heard of at the time but who were huge in America, The Flaming Lips. Last year The Flaming Lips finally made it into the public consciousness when ‘Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots’ (UK link) (US link) eventually got some more coverage.

A few days ago I tracked down their album ‘The Soft Bulletin’ (UK link) (US link) and so many memories of that trip came rushing back to me. I wonder where the people I met then are now?

I’m also making new memories. I’ve been listening a lot to VNV Nation‘s new album ‘Matter & Form’ (UK link) (US link) . It’s got some great thumping tracks on there; I especially like ‘Chrome’, but I still think that for stomping industrial dance their second album is the best, ‘Praise the Fallen’ (UK link) (US link) .

I’ll do some more recommendations in the future, but here’s a quick book suggestion before I go:

If you like sci-fi, especially in a post-Blade Runner/cyberpunk/ultraviolent style then you will absolutely love ‘Altered Carbon’ by Richard Morgan. In Morgan’s book people can be digitally backed-up, so that if they die they can be ‘resleeved’ in a new body. The body way to really kill a person it to destroy their chip, and the rich make automatic back-ups every day, so when an immensely rich man apparently destroys his own chip before back-up his resleeved-self wants to know what happened. Enter Takashi Kovacs, a highly trained agent capable of incredible focus and self-control. He’s also a complete sociopath who is not averse to killing and destroying the chips of every person in the building. Frankly, it’s brilliant. Almost certainly one of the best books I’ve read for years, and the novel and its sequel has been optioned for a film so read it now before Hollywood destroys it completely! (UK link) (US link)

Optimism, gay penguins, realism, and more junk-mail poetry

I was told today on my forums that I am an optimist. I don’t think I was in the past, so I’m not quite sure when this transformation happened, but now I think about it more, I’m not even sure if I am.

The reason for this was that I believe that people’s basic instinct is to do the best thing in their circumstances, whether this is being polite to strangers, holding open doors for others carrying shopping, or leaving some money in the hat of a busker whose song you’ve enjoyed. I don’t hold with ideas that say that mankind has a basic intent towards sin or rivalry. Humanity has become the dominant species on the planet (well, except for mosquitoes) because we work together. I think that the people who worked together in the past were the most successful, and that the genetic traits for social existence are programmed into us on a very deep level.

To go off on a tangent for a moment, a few years ago, I read a very interesting article about the role of homosexuality in preserving early societies. It’s one of the common arguments against gay people that they aren’t ‘natural’, but this article put forward a very interesting perspective. Basically it had investigated homosexuality in small tribes in Africa and came out with an interesting perspective. It argued that in hunter/gatherer social structures the men would go out hunting for one or more days at a time, but homosexual men would stay in the village. They would be the ones that gave the paternal figure to the children, and they would be the ones in the role of shaman. Admittedly, this article didn’t mention female homosexuality, but it suggested that homosexuality was a product of the needs of a society to have a figure that could straddle the divide between the absent hunting men and the needs of the children for masculine figures. Some people might laugh at the idea of gay men being described as masculine, but in some cultures gay men are regarded as more masculine than straight men because they do not have physical relations with women. Obviously there was no conclusion about whether homosexuality was produced through a genetic response to a certain population or from spontaneous adaptation to the needs of the tribe (like some species of fish that have the ability to change sex in response to the need for a male among the group if there are only females there), but either way it’s certainly an interesting proposition, and might explain why groups of people who are staunchly against homosexuality always seem to end up with at least one member being gay… Or is that just Murphy’s Law?

While checking out some background for this I stumbled on this site about a pair of gay penguins in Central Park zoo. They had built their own nest and were sitting on a stone instead of an egg. The keepers replaced the stone with a fertilised egg and the proud gay penguin fathers “did a great job” at raising it, says one of their keepers.

When I woke up this morning, I really didn’t think I was going to be writing ‘proud gay penguin fathers’ today.

Anyway, back on track: So, I believe that we are programmed to want to work for a better society, so why don’t we do it? I think a lot of it comes down to laziness. Being nice takes more effort. Maybe it’s because the societies that we now live in have reached such a critical mass that it seems unnecessary to us to do anything to help that society survive. Maybe this too is programmed into us, because a population the size of most cities certainly wouldn’t have been able to live off of the local land without rapidly stripping it and starving to death. Maybe we’re all being lazy because the conflict in us is telling us on one hand that we should help those that need us, and on the other we’re being told that the society is too big and a bit of a cull wouldn’t go amiss!

I’m an optimist, because I really do think that our basic natures are good, but I’m a realist in that I don’t expect that everyone, or even many people, will live up to my hopes. So why should I bother hoping? Because someone has to.

We are now the ones that are responsible for the way that the future will be shaped. There’s no use in waiting for other people to change the world for us, or for them to make it a better place. I don’t think that we need a revolution; I just think that it would be as simple as everyone trying a little bit harder. Don’t be rude to staff in restaurants and shops. Hold open doors. Recycle whatever you can. Treat everyone fairly and try actually listening to them and realising that they are an individual who is just trying to get by in the world and that maybe you can make their life if not better then certainly don’t make it worse. Smile at people.

Heh… There goes any credibility that I ever had with goths! 😉 Actually, people who feel that society doesn’t give them the chances that they would like might understand the need for this better than anyone, but there’s no point in waiting for other people to start it. We have to take control of our lives to create a quiet revolution, and we have to do it now. The change will not come through pushing against the world. If someone pushes you then your instinct is to push back. All change must come from the inside of organisations. We have the power to do this. Each of us is hidden away in structures and organisations, from schools, through shops, into the governments of the planet, and we can all make that difference. It’s only a little effort, and it feels good to be doing it. Do you know why you feel good? It’s not because you should feel proud, it’s because you know it’s right. It feels right.

So I’m an optimist. I have belief in us all.

Moving on: here’s today’s junk mail poetry:

already meant surely
spoke commit taken
opposite certain knows however one find

I love these things! Admittedly I might love not being on junk mail lists more, but you don’t run a website for this long without turning up in a few places. ‘Glad I’ve got a good spam blocker. I am beginning to suspect that there’s a digital Shakespeare hiding on a mainframe somewhere. Am I alone in thinking these things are great?

Guess when this was written…

He would be a rash prophet who should assert that the expansive character of American life has now entirely ceased. Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American energy will continually demand a wider field for its exercise.

Okay, that’s a pretty decent comment about the current state of American politics. Guess when it was written? (No Googling! That would spoil it!)

Junk mail haikus… Sort of

I got this as a junk mail with some junk attachment (probably some spyware, forgive me if I don’t bother opening it to check):

your favorite
did fail meant i with black
situation worthy dark garden circumstances very

I know that’s probably created by a machine somewhere, but I think that’s quite poetic. I think it’s rather charming.

Yes I know haiku.
That is not one, nor is this.
It is a senryu.

You want an haiku?
Not likely around here mate
Senryu is all.

Technically a senryu is a poem about human affairs whereas haiku are about nature. More here, for the Japanophiles among you.

Here’s my best ever senryu. It’s about Kylie Minogue:

Keeps on looping in my head,
Make it stop now please.

Back to the point of all this. I like the idea that the random generation of junk mail might one day prove that old adage about an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters. Maybe a digitial Shakespeare is being dismissed by your junk-mail filter as you’re reading this. You never know. Sometimes creation appears in the strangest of places. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open.

It has been suggested that if we ever manage to make an artificial intelligence that we might not even recognise it. It makes you wonder what else might be lurking on the web…

Bright sunlight
Burning the leaves after rain
Green turns to deep gold.

There you go: a haiku in the end.


Right, long-time visitors will know that I held out on getting banners on this site for about four years, so at least three of you might be interested in what the score is.

The banners will hopefully provide a steady income that will offset the trickiness of trying to pay rent and buy food when I’m self-employed. Simple as that really.

It all works on a system of impressions. Each banner gets one impression each time you load a page. After 1000 impressions I get something like 50p (that’s around US$1 these days). Not a great deal of money, I grant you, but it mounts up. This is why it’s good if you can tell your friends about my animations. The more hits means that there’s more chance I’ll be able to buy Heinz rather than Sainsbury’s economy beans for my toast 🙂

I also mention that clicking banners is good. This isn’t because I get money for clicks, it’s because if my site generates clicks from people then maybe I’ll be able to charge more money in the future.

So is this just corporate whoring? Well… That depends on the way you look at it. I prefer to think of it as a way that I can actively take back money that corporations have probably twisted out of me at some point or other anyway. If AOL foots a small part of my rent each month then that makes me a happy man. Do I expect you to buy any of the things linked to on the banners? Well, that’s up to you, as it always is with banners and all forms of advertising.

I think I’ve just won the award for ‘the most dull blog entry ever’. Thank you and good night.

Free stuff and hackers

Since this seems to be my theme at the moment here’s a quick note about Ad-Aware which you can download for free here.

Adware, spyware, Trojans… If you’re relatively new to the net you might not know much about them. Basically they’re little malicious pieces of code that at best will keep track of the websites you look at then send that information out to advertising companies. At worst they’ll email your keystokes out to unknown people, including things like credit card details that you may have typed in to a website. In other words, it’s a good idea to protect yourself from this stuff.

You might be thinking ‘but the person in the shop told me that Norton Anti-Virus’ would protect me from these things. The problem is that these bits of code aren’t actually virii. In general terms, a virus will spread itself to other machines (usually by emailing itself to everyone in your email address book) then begin to destroy your information, eventually making your machine unusable until you have to wipe the disk. The kind of thing that we’re talking about here isn’t like that: it doesn’t want to destroy your information because it wants that information for itself, and the longer it can sit on your computer the more info it reaps. You’d be surprised how much information can be worth!

I also don’t rate Norton very highly over the last couple of years, but that’s another issue…

So, you need anti-spyware software as well as anti-virus software. Ad-Aware is very good and free for personal users too! Hurrah! While I’m here, the third of the holy trinity of essential web-ware is a firewall. If you haven’t got all three then you need to seriously look into getting them.

If you haven’t got a firewall either then I’d suggest downloading the Sygate personal firewall. Again, it’s free for individuals to use on their machines and very good at what it does (which is stops people from getting onto your machine through open internet ports and doing nefarious deeds).

You may have noticed that I don’t use the term ‘hacker’ for any of these people. That’s because I like the old use of the term. A hacker is, to me, a person who likes working out how things function and generally takes things apart to make them better. In computer terms this might be a person who writes code with the purpose of improving functionality over existing code, but I think it applies to any enterprise. I think that Picasso and Braque were hackers of the visual world. When they invented Cubism it permanently changed the way the world saw reality and for the better. That’s what good hacking is all about. Hacking is a bit like the term ‘kung-fu’: it’s usually applied to one activity but actually just describes a person who is really good at something. Hacking doesn’t have to be destructive, so I think lumping true hackers in along with destructive script kiddies is offensive to some of the smartest people in the world.

Play nicely with the hackers; they’re the people who are working on the cure for cancer.

Blair to reshape Britain!

Another election, another Labour government. Still, ole’ Tone has a greatly reduced majority this time, so at least that means that there might be something that can be regarded as opposition to slow his desired transformation of the British Isles into the shape of George W. Bush’s face. I kid you not, that was going to be the next bill that he was going to easily pass through government before the election got in the way.

Tony Blair planned on dredging the English Channel and using the material from the bottom to reshape Britain into the shape of Bush’s profile. In a leaked memo he said ‘We might as well get rid of Cornwall altogether, they’re all hippies down there anyway. And I never liked the Welsh, I can’t understand a word they’re saying. Is there anything we can do about them?’ Cornwall and Wales voted mainly for the Liberal Democrats, so maybe he’ll go ahead with his plan after all.

You heard it here first!