Friday, June 30, 2006

Cheery Summer Mix

The sun is still shining in London and so the happy summer playlists come to the fore on the iAtrocity music dispensing device. I think I actually made this playlist last summer (so if you're looking for the latest and trendiest this one ain't it) but it's been gathering dust at the bottom of my iTunes stack till now where it's been resurrected, phoenix like with the prepending of a "_" to its name. So without further ado here it is. Cover art to follow later (possibly).

Groove is in the Heart - Deee-Lite
I Want You Back - The Jackson 5
Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine - James Brown
Come Into My World - Kylie Minogue
Dancing in the Street - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
Dance to the Music - Sly and the Family Stone
Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
Daddy Was a Preacher But Mama was a Go-Go Girl - Southern Culture on the Skids
Walk This Way - Aerosmith
Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
Love Shack - The B52sDance, Dance, Dance - The Beach Boys
Walk Like and Egyptian - The Bangles
A Little Samba - Ugly Duckling
Listen to the DJ - Z-Trip
Teenage Sensation - Credit to the Nation
Jump the Line - Harry Belafonte
Bring Me Sunshine - Morecambe and Wise

It all makes me happy anyway.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's not a bad effort but...

This is too good not to have a go at. Mike Johnson has posted a few famous photographs and appended comments of the sort they'd probably get if they'd been placed on flickr or the like. OK, I'm game, I can be facetious with the best of 'em so here's my offering :

Stephen Shore

Hi Steve,

I'm not quite sure what your trying to say with this snap. From all the detail it looks like you've got one of those big bellows cameras like the old guys use. I guess it must have taken you so long to set up that the subject wandered off hey? It's a shame. If you use of the new Canon 30D cameras they start up in 0.2 seconds so you can make sure you don't miss your shot! I also kind of think you should crop that pole out on the left as it's distracting. It's very common for inexperienced photographers not to know how to crop (or to forget to do it at all!!!) but you'll learn with some more practice.


Josef Koudelka

Hey, Josef. Wow, seems to me like yu missed a whole bunch of chances with this snap. There's the kid in fancy dress (pity he's not smiling tho') and there's horses but you kinda missed them all. It's a shame you could have taken a great shot here if you learned to wait and look a bit better.


Albert Watson

Al, I can't freakin' believe it!!!! Most people on this group would kill to photo that guy out of the Rolling Stones (that's Mick Jaeger right?) and you blew it!!!! I guess if I were in the same position I'd have got too excited and not had the patience to wait for that smoke to clear!!??!!! Oh well, bad luck eh???? I guess you'll have learned for next time!!!!!


Horst P. Horst

Horst P Horst? Hey that's a cool avatar name, wish I'd thought of it! I kind of like this capture tho. You should crop it more closely round the woman cos she's really the focus of the image and your eye's need to be drawn to that. Plus that big shadow is distracting. I think the background is kinda boring too. Maybe if you had a big sunset or something that could jazz it up. She just looks like she's sad at a wall, and c'mon who's ever been that upset with a wall. You need to give your pictures a story to make them great. It's OK I guess.


Robert Capa

Hey Bob,

No disrespect but you know we can hardly see what's goin on here! What you need to do is use a tripod and a longer lens (longer lenses are like zooms) This would let you stand on the beach while you snap your buddy here. I kinda like "black and white" for those "arty" shots but you know nothing says beach holiday more than blue skies and yellow sand. Maybe if you used a polarizer filter you could get some of that if you shot colour? Just trying to help you out!


Andre Kertesz

Bonjour Andre! (That's the only french I know ha ha ha)

Hey, dude, I think you got confused and put your eBay "product shot" on the photo group? It's kind of a nice fork though, how much is the reserve? I need some new cutlery. Is it just this one fork, or is there a whole set? A tip: When you're doing these shots for your auctions try and use more even lighting and shoot it in colour, ok? That way your item looks more appealing. Bet you're feeling pretty embarrassed now huh? Did you put your holiday photos on your eBay auction too?!!???? Ha ha ha LOL!!!!!


I've tried to pick photographers that weren't "featured" in the original article and I should probably 'fess up and mention that the Shore, Koudelka and Kertesz pictures are three of my favourite pieces of art ever created and writing stupid comments about them was tougher than I thought it was going to be.

Monday, June 26, 2006

All of your Lord's are belong to us

I have seen the light. There is no going back now, and my life is enriched for it. Yesterday my chum S.R. took me to see some cricket (my favourite sport by miles) at Lord's. He is a member of Middlesex County Cricket Club and as such can take a guest into the historic pavilion to enjoy the day's play and its various amenities. On the basis of this one life-changing experience I have just handed over a not insubstantial sum of money to MCCC so that I may enjoy the same privileges. To be honest it's worth the cost of membership just to get access to the bars (of which there a four, count 'em, four) not to mention the spectacular views from the top balcony.

Entering the pavilion is a bit of a bizarre experience in this day and age to be honest, rather as if you've been transported back to the 1930s. There is a strict dress code and I quote it straight from the rule book:

Dress in the Pavilion

Whilst in the Pavilion, gentlemen shall wear ties and tailored coats and acceptable trousers with appropriate shoes. Zip up golf-style jackets are not permitted. Gentlemen will not be admitted to the Pavilion, including the Pavilion concourse, unless, on entrance, their dress conforms to this Regulation. However, coats and ties may be removed on the Pavilion Concourse, and outside balconies, but must be replaced for entry to the Pavilion building.

Ladies should wear dresses; or skirts or trousers worn with blouses, and appropriate shoes. Dresses and blouses may be sleeveless.

Religious, traditional or national dress, or service uniform, is permitted. However, the following items of clothing are prohibited; jeans and their close relations; leggings; jodhpur-style trousers; t-shirts; track suits; training shoes; plimsolls; flip flop shoes; denim clothing and overalls.

See what I mean? "jeans and their close relations." Tee hee; I love it. So first of all there's the deferential time-traveling aspect of a visit, and you do really feel like you've stepped out of time. Then, once you've signed the visitor's book, there's the beer. As per most sporting venues the beer in the rest of the ground is horrid mega-swill and fairly expensive at that. In the pavilion you have the choice of proper hand-pulled pints of Fuller's London Pride or Young's Bitter, both of which are well-looked after. For lunch you can potter down to the Long Room Bar where there was roast-beef (cut in front of you) sandwiches and salad and then lovely chocolate cake for pudding. As you eat your gaze can wander around the room taking in the portraits of the great and the good from cricket history and the memorabilia in glass cases.

After this agreeable repast you may wander back up the beautiful staircase (did I mention the chandeliers?) to the Member's Bar, collect another couple of pints of lovely beer, and settle back down to watch the afternoon session from the benches on the top balcony.

I think heaven must be rather like this.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Organically Evolving Playlists

Sometimes my own stupidity amazes me. Like many people who use iTunes or equivalents I have a chunk of playlists that have a few hours of music of a certain type, for example my "Summertime Rolls" or "Irresponsible Guitar" lists. Now these kind of playlists aren't a totally random assortment, and some tracks definitely work together better than others, but to be honest I don't want to spend my time sorting them by hand because it's a bit difficult to do this without listening to a whole song and then thinking "ooh, that would work next".

But I finally figured out that if I just set my playlist to be ordered by the last time the track was played I can listen to a track and then when it hits the next one if it doesn't work I can keep skipping forward till I hit something that does and of course once this new track has played it will automatically now follow the previous one in the list henceforth. So your playlists can evolve until they hit a point where you can just play them and each track works perfectly with the next. Looking at my "Irresponsible Guitar" playlist it has, over the last month or two, reordered itself so that most of the sixties stuff, Zeppelin, Free etc are together and then 80s hair bands, Van Halen, Poison have also grouped themselves into a pleasing sequence with chunks of AC/DC and Jane's Addiction forming the link. But you still find that single AC/DC track in the midst of the sixties tunes because it just works there.

I like these organically shifting playlists and I can't believe I've been such a numbskull not to figure it out before.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I Am Weak

It didn't take long to convince me. I saw A Tokai Flying V in the window of the guitar shop on Friday and had lusted after it all weekend. So today I went and played it, and it's pretty decent for a cheapish guitar. So, err, well, I err, I, erm, bought it. It's so pretty.

I've wanted a Flying V for years, it's such a design icon, so utterly modernist and so completely unlike a generic strat or Les Paul - it's not even guitar-shaped for heaven's sake. Though lust had nearly got the better of me on more than one occasion in the past I'd balked at the cost of Gibson ones as it's a guitar I'm not going to play all the time, if for no other reason than they're a complete bastard to play sat down. So when I found out that Tokai were making good quality; how can this be put delicately? Err knockoffs, and for a fraction of the price of a real one I could resist no longer.

Justification to myself time : But they are very lightweight which means that it's perfect for band practice where I have to carry the damn thing around with me all day, and as it's a lot cheaper than my Les Paul I am less worried if it gets dinged and dinted. Plus I always have to stand whilst at band practice so I may as well look cool whilst I do it.

The sound's pretty interesting too. As the wood is less dense than the mahogony that Les Pauls are usually constructed from it has a lighter tone. The shape probably helps in this too. I think it'll have a lovely sweet overdriven tone when I get it plugged into the right amp. Yum.

I'm so excited, I can't wait to get it plugged in and start some proper vintage rock and roll happening. Time to start playing Lonnie Mack tunes again. Joy.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


What an amazing day. There are some days where I realise what a lucky so-and-so I am and today was definitely one of them.

The day started quietly with the cooking of omelettes and drinking of tea at chez Tinseltroos. The sun was really beating down by the time we left the flat and wandered into Soho. The reason for the journey was to go to Frith Street Tattoo and Piercing where Tinseltroos has had her second tattoo done. As you aren't allowed to stay whilst the scribbling occurs, once the design had been finalised and drawn on her back myself and Sister of Tinseltroos left to go about the rest of our days. I got a very over-excited phone call a couple of hours later to say that all that could be achieved in a day had been done and tomorrow I get to see the results. All very very exciting. During tattooing your body apparently generates huge quantities of adrenaline whilst you lie as still as possible not burning it off therefore once you get off the table you go a bit hyper so the craziness of the phonecall was not unexpected. She seemed very happy though.

For my own venture into the heady world of body modification I went and got a hair cut at The Wacky Hairdresser, also in Soho. Claire, the woman who cut my hair, turned out to be from an area of North Wales I know well so we were able to chat about that, tattoos (she has 5) and beards (I have 1). They also give you beer at the hairdresser which given the heat was very welcome.

With my shorn locks looking tidier I ventured down into Covent Garden and bought some arts materials for a project I've had in mind for a wee while. More on that when I've made some progress with it. From there I wandered by the river down to Blackfriars, got a train back to South London and then walked to East Dulwich to buy a huge porterhouse steak and some veggies.

I notice that The Independent newspaper has cottoned onto the fabness of my butcher and it was noticeably busier than I'm used to. I was still able to get a steak though and with my veggies I stopped in at a wine merchant and treated myself to a bottle of 2000 Château Liversan before heading back to Atrocity Mansions.

I write this having just finished the steak (cooked blue of course) with some lovely new potatoes that I boiled with mint and then finished with a short frying in olive oil with some rosemary. I made a sauce by deglazing the steak pan with some of the wine and adding a little crème fraîche and flour to thicken. The wine is now mostly drunk and I lounge on my sofa, watching Italy vs USA in the World Cup, happy as larry.

Have a lovely rest of the weekend.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Corn flour/starch vibro-magick

Mandi has very kindly answered one of the questions that I posed recently and not only did that but also linked to the above nerd-coolness. Watch in awe as cornflour/starch does the end sequence from Akira.

It lives!

As some of you may know my day-job is a visual effects artist for der movies. You want an armada of ships for your ancient Greek epic and you only built 2? I'm your man. And so on. The current project I'm on, which will quite possibly be the biggest film of next summer, involves the creation of a digital giant. Whilst I've done creatures I've never worked on a character - i.e. one that has to act, and has to properly interact with real actors.

We've been working on our guy for about 6 months now and in the last two weeks something quite magical has started to happen. Until recently you could break down what we needed to accomplish into a series of technical problems like, "How do you make skin look like skin?" being my current bête noir or how do the muscles on an eighteen foot tall person work etc etc. All of these questions, whilst they have a creative and artistic element to them are very much technical challenges that if you sit down and bang your head against your keyboard for enough hours you will figure out how to solve, and slowly but surely he's been looking better and better. The strange part is that in the last two weeks or so he's stopped being a series of technical problems and has started to become a character, almost as real as any of the other human actors with whom we have no direct dealings. I begin to get a feeling of what Dr Frankenstein must have felt as the electricity flowed through his assemblage of body parts and jerked spasmodically into life.


And whilst he still needs much work to get him ready for his big screen debut, so does our boy. Awww bless 'im.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Kneejerk economics

Last weekend's Sunday Mail had a report into China's "iPod sweatshops" where the music player is assembled by a workforce who are each paid £54 per month (£648 per year) for working a 15 hour day. "Shock horror!" cries the Mail (and Boing Boing and MacWorld).

According to this article (which I have no way of verifying either) the average urban salary in China is £1000 per year and the average rural salary is closer to £300 per annum (for equivalent or longer working hours). In the United Kingdom the average salary is £22 000 per year but if the average factory worker earns about £7 per hour and works for the average manufacturing labour hours per annum (1856 hours per year) their annual salary would be £14 848 i.e. roughly comparable in terms of average salary with the iPod makers.

Whilst I grant you that the hours worked are in no way comparable with the UK, and I make no claims as to the moral rights or wrongs of this situation, it still annoys me when statistics are used out of context as it tells us nothing. Everything is relative especially salaries and cost of living, that's why all these Daily Mail readers can marvel and tell their friends how cheap it was to go on holiday in blah-blah where beer only costs a few pence and the hotels are soooo cheap not to mention the fact that they'd all be complaining like hell if their iPods cost £500.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I am irked again.

So the Python script I wrote wasn't enough. The render would get about 5 frames into its batch and then crash for no good reason. BUT because of the way it crashed it was popping up an error box that had to be manually confirmed before it would try the next task. AAAARGH! So now I have had to rewrite the script to render batches of one frame at a time which is inefficient and retarded. If this were freeware it would be unacceptable but perhaps explicable. Instead it's a £1500 piece of software, and the fact that I have to write my own render-wrangling software to get it to do sequences of more than five frames is supremely irritating. I really must try and get Liquid to compile on OS X and then I can use a decent renderer instead. Grrrr. But I did manage to get the Miglia box to record Dr Who whilst I was out on Saturday night so that's still good tech.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Laudibus Rocks my World (Gently)

It has been very hot (by my pale north-european pasty-skinned standards) in London for the last week. I merely mention this because when the temperatures hit the 28-30 degree mark it plays merry hell with my poor little brain. I tend to feel slightly sleepy, rather spaced out, and uncomfortably aware of my own physicality which are not states of mind I crave. But it does put you in an altered state of mind and sometimes not quite being yourself is a good way to appreciate new experiences.

And so it was that a not-quite Mr Atrocity found himself the guest of the Glaswegian Amazon at St James's Church on Piccadilly for a concert of choral music by Laudibus, a choir made up of the best soloists to come out the National Youth Choir programme. Though not in the least religious I do love religious music and to hear it within a church does make it that little more special. There's also the beautiful decay of the sound in these big, airy spaces that is utterly captivating, especially the echo within a church and as each note dies away it really does make the hair on the back of your next stand up. It's a very beautiful acoustic that enhances the warm woody, earthy sound of the human male voice and allows the female voice to soar above. Stand out pieces for me were John Dunstable's "Quam Pulchra Es", Francis Grier's "Dilectus Meus Mihi" and especially Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur's "Le Cantique des Cantiques" (The whole premise of the concert was The Song of Songs). This final piece, whilst pretty modern (certainly compared to some of the early renaissance work that began the concert) seemed strangely timeless to me, despite its use of very modern sounding dissonance and complex rhythmic structures. I was completely unaware of not only the existence of this piece but also of its composer (to my shame) but I certainly intend to rectify this over the coming weeks. The music, and its performance within such a beautiful setting, was a tremendously moving experience which I shall remember for much time to come.

The climax to the concert wasn't so good but I'll write about that later. Suffice to say that repertoire is a very important part of getting the best out of a classically trained choir and an ersatz, soulless rendition of "I Got You Under My Skin" doesn't really do it for me. But the good stuff was beautiful, and I don't want to end this post negatively so suffice to say, order the CD listed above from Amazon for a taste of Daniel-Lesur or if you can bear to wait till September get the Laudibus' version when it is released. Laudibus' next London concert will be to celebrate the release of their Song of Songs CD and will be at a church in Holborn (they did tell us at the concert but my addled brain didn't retain the information). It isn't listed on the National Youth Choirs site yet so I suppose we'll just have to keep checking back unless you are RSS savvy in which case they have a feed (bless 'em), so subscribe to that. I certainly intend to be there.

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Irksome, and then not

So I'm now, finally, rendering the frames of my short film that I've been posting stills from here every so often, and unfortunately, due to reasons I won't bore you with, I am having to render it in my second choice piece of software for the purpose. The reason why it is not my first choice should become obvious when I tell you that I've had to write a small piece of software of my own in Python to check the output of the renders and get the renderer to retry any broken frames (of which it is generating many - not my fault) or kickstart it again when it crashes, which it does frequently. I shouldn't have to do this dagnabbit. I paid a lot of money for this application and frankly it should be able to render a glass (non-raytraced) box and some coloured cubes, but apparently not. Grrr. I hate it when technology that should work and is expensive just doesn't.

But software and hardware that just DOES work comes in the shape of my Miglia TV Mini which I purchased for my PowerBook to enable me to watch the World Cup any time, any place, any where. It's a tiny USB connecting stick with an aerial and after a bit of software installage, boom, there's all the Freeview TV channels on my pooter. And I can record them and encode them to play on my iPod too. Fabulous.

And so on balance I'm still happy with technology this morning.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Laird Hamilton - Geeeeenius

Well it's been a long day of rendering stuff for HPatOotP today and I was looking for footage to explain to a work-chum who Laird Hamilton is. And I found the above. Crazy crazy man.

Asparagus Risotto

On Saturday, as it was a beautiful summer's evening in London, Tinseltroos and I made asparagus risotto and ate it out in the grotto at the bottom of the garden at Atrocity Mansions. We didn't follow a recipe and yet it all turned out rather well, so here's the whole darn thingy:

(for 2 fairly hungry people)

Steam about 5 spears per person but chop them up into inch and half long sections. Whilst you are doing this, put a good slug of olive oil in your risotto pan along with a knob of butter and gently fry half a finely chopped onion till it's translucent. Add in risotto rice and stir for a couple of minutes to allow every grain to get a covering of oil. Slowly add 1/5 bottle of dry white wine till it's absorbed then begin to add vegetable stock whilst continually stirring. Keep the stock hot - risottos don't like having cold liquids added to them as they cook. Add the asparagus and a handful of torn up mint to the rice and continue to stir and add stock as needed. Steam some sliced french beans and then add them to the pan. Add salt, pepper and grated Parmesan to taste. When the risotto rice is cooked stir in a couple of teaspoons full of creme fraiche to add a shine to the sauce. Serve with Parmesan and torn mint leaves on top.

Questions Questions

I would like to know the answers to these questions as I fill too much of my time pondering them and yet am not smart enough to figure them out.

  1. Is mathematics a discovery or an invention?
  2. When did it cease to be possible for one person to retain the sum of human knowledge?
  3. Why do bacon and egg work so perfectly together, and does this prove the existence of a benevolent god?
  4. Who was Homer?
  5. How was Stone Henge built and by whom?
  6. Why does cornflour do that weird liquid/crumbly thing it does?

That's enough confusion for one day. Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction Masquerading as Truth Continued

As I grumbled about somewhat incoherently before, I have a big issue with fiction films which dress themselves up as (and are believed by large sections of the populus to be) representations of reality. This article from the BBC rather, I think, proves my point that these works of art are generally divisive and specious. Here we have an actor (Erich Redman), playing the role of a real human being (Christian Adams) who was murdered, alongside many others, in a terrorist attack, and because there is no documentary evidence of this man's behaviour the actor is encouraged by his director (Paul Greengrass) to improvise his performance. Now if the character were fictional and the plot was fictional I would obviously have no problem with this, but the plain fact is that "United 93" is selling itself as, and has been critically lauded for being, a fair and even-handed representation of precisely what happened on that fateful day. i.e. it is "the truth" as close as we can fathom it. The BBC article explains:

[Redman's performance] has been criticised for showing a real victim in a bad light with no evidence. But Redman said: "I managed to stay away from the cowardly side."

The film is a reconstruction of United Airlines Flight 93, which apparently crashed before it could reach its target after passengers fought back.

It was based on radio transmissions and mobile phone calls - but there is no record of what Mr Adams did in his final hours.

This is monstrous. Redman has chosen to depict Mr Adams in a potentially derogatory way, simply because his whims as an actor, and the encouragement of his director, led him there. This performance is a complete fiction and by extension, "United 93" is a fiction. It is no more a representation of the facts of terrorists on a plane than "Die Hard 2".

And yet people will believe that Christian Adams tried to appease the hijackers. If this were not bad enough, as the BBC article makes clear :

His widow did not want to co-operate with film-makers because it was too painful, Redman said.

This raises another question, could "United 93" be guilty of committing a libel against Mr Adams' memory; could his distraut wife sue? Certainly if you allege that someone has behaved inappropriately, the onus is on the accuser to prove in a court of law that what is alleged happened did in fact occur, something which it is clear that the film-makers could not do. One suspects, cynically perhaps, that if this were ever to reach the courts, Paramount would be very quickly hiding behind the fig-leaf of "fictionalisation" despite all their current protestations of accuracy and documentary seriousness.

There is no escaping the unpleasant truth that what we have here is either a misguided attempt to dramatise what occurred with a lot of deliberately imagined details to heighten the drama or worse, a cynical attempt to cash in on the anniversary of the murder of a lot of innocent civilians. It actually doesn't matter which is the truth particularly; the net effect is the same. The family and friends of Christian Adams, who have all already suffered more than anyone should ever have to, now face the besmirching of their lost loved one's memory and quite possibly the public accusation of cowardice from the ignorant who will believe that "United 93" is in some way an accurate depiction of what occurred. I was feeling uncomfortable with these September 11th film projects, but now, certainly in the case of Mr Greengrass' fantasy, I feel nothing but utter revulsion.